Sumo shat­tered by cham­pion’s bot­tle as­sault claim

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD -

TOKYO — The highly cer­e­mo­nial and or­dered world of sumo was rocked on Tues­day as al­le­ga­tions emerged that one of the sport’s wor­shipped grand cham­pi­ons smashed a beer bot­tle over a fel­low wrestler’s head.

Mon­go­lian “yokozuna”, or grand cham­pion, Haru­ma­fuji is­sued an apol­ogy be­fore the Ja­panese me­dia, as of­fi­cials said they were prob­ing the in­ci­dent that has led to his ab­sence from an on­go­ing tour­na­ment.

The 33-year-old Haru­ma­fuji hit his coun­try­man Takanoiwa, 27, last month when Mon­go­lian wrestlers gath­ered over drinks af­ter the au­tumn tour­na­ment, sev­eral me­dia re­ported.

“I deeply apol­o­gize over Takanoiwa’s in­jury,” said Haru­ma­fuji — one of three reign­ing Mon­go­lian yokozuna — at his train­ing site in the western Ja­panese city of Daza­ifu.

But he de­flected fur­ther ques­tions to the “sta­ble mas­ter” who runs the camp.

The an­cient sport has an ex­tremely strict pro­to­col, and yokozuna are ex­pected to be be­yond moral re­proach in ad­di­tion to show­ing su­pe­rior strength and tech­nique in the ring.

Wrestlers are not even al­lowed to ex­press emo­tions when they win as this is seen as in­con­sid­er­ate to the loser.

Tomokatsu Taniguchi, head of le­gal af­fairs for the sumo as­so­ci­a­tion, said that Takanoiwa’s sta­ble mas­ter had sub­mit­ted a doc­tor’s cer­tifi­cate re­gard­ing a head in­jury that would re­quire two weeks to heal.

A link be­tween the in­jury and the al­le­ga­tion is not con­firmed, added Taniguchi, as of­fi­cials are still in­ves­ti­gat­ing the mat­ter.

Tales of ex­treme phys­i­cal abuse are be­com­ing more com­mon in sumo — Ja­pan’s na­tional sport — which is char­ac­ter­ized by harsh train­ing and strict hi­er­ar­chy.

Last year, a wrestler and his sta­ble mas­ter were re­port­edly or­dered to pay more than $287,000 to a fel­low grap­pler for daily abuse that led to the loss of sight in one of the vic­tim’s eyes.

In 2007, a trainee sumo wrestler died af­ter be­ing bullied and sub­jected to vi­o­lent ini­ti­a­tion rites, send­ing shock waves through the sport.

A sta­ble mas­ter who struck the teen with a beer bot­tle was sen­tenced to five years in jail for neg­li­gence re­sult­ing in death.

And in 2010, fire­brand Mon­go­lian grand cham­pion Asashoryu re­tired af­ter be­ing ac­cused of break­ing a man’s nose in a drunken brawl out­side a Tokyo night­club.

KOJI SASAHARA / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Sumo grand cham­pion Haru­ma­fuji of Mon­go­lia per­forms his ring en­try moves at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Fri­day, in Jan­uary. The Shinto rit­ual is part of the an­nual New Year’s cel­e­bra­tions at the shrine.

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