TOKYO (AFP) — Mongolian sumo wrestler Ama has been promoted to the second-highest rank in another show of the country’s dominance of Japan’s ancient sport.
“I would like to accept it humbly. I will earnestly devote myself to pursuing the path of sumo,” Ama, clad in a formal kimono and bowing deeply, said in Japanese during a ceremony at his stable.
The decision by the Japan Sumo Association to promote Ama to ozeki — just one rank below grand champion — was unanimous.
The 24-year-old wrestler, real name Davaanyam Byambadorj, changed his ring name upon promotion, as other wrestlers have before. His new moniker is Harumafuji, meaning sun horse and Mount Fuji.
At 129 kilogrammes (284 pounds), Harumafuji is the lightest top-flight fighter and is reputed for his speed.
He made waves in the last tournament which ended on Sunday, finishing runner-up with a 13-2 record behind compatriot and grand champion Hakuho.
Harumafuji said he would aim for the top rank of yokozuna grand champion.
“Since I got this great name, I want to achieve results that would take the name higher,” the wrestler told reporters after his formal promotion.
He is the third Mongolian to reach the rank of ozeki, following Asashoryu and Hakuho, the only two yokozunas. He is the seventh non-Japanese ozeki in history.
His promotion brought some much-needed bright news for a sport damaged by a series of scandals ranging from allegations of match-fixing to the fatal abuse of an apprentice and cannabis smoking.