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Monday, 22 January, 2001, 12:03 GMT
Sumo great Akebono retires
Sumo wrestler Akebono
Akebono will become a coach after his retirment
The first non-Japanese sumo wrestler to become grand champion, Akebono, is to retire after a string of injuries.

Hawaiian-born Akebono, whose real name is Chad Rowan, made his decision to quit the sport while in hospital in Tokyo undergoing rehabilitation for his most recent injury.

"I have done a lot of thinking while undergoing rehabilitation. The decision to retire was not so easy to make," the 230-kilogram giant said.

"I have been worrying about it every day. But I have no regrets."

Failing flesh

The 31-year old said he had decided to quit because of constant pain in his knees.

"Currently, I feel pain even when I do not wrestle.

"I felt I have lost my will to return to the top again and my body no longer does what it is told."

Plagued throughout the latter half of his career by weak knees, Akebono, which means 'Dawn', competed in all six major tournaments for the first time in seven years last year, notching up two championships.

He moved to Japan to become a sumo wrestler in 1988, joining the "stable" run by another former Hawaiian wrestler Jesse Kuhaulua.

Gentle giant

With his long reach, the 6ft 5in Akebono used his trademark two-handed thrusting technique, resembling an American football throat tackle, to devastating effect on shorter opponents.

Within five years he was promoted to become only the 64th yokozuna, or grand champion, in the history of modern sumo in 1993.

Despite his somewhat limited range of techniques, Akebono became hugely popular because of his gentle giant demeanour away from the ring.

During his senior division career, Akebono won 11 tournaments, making him sumo's seventh most successful wrestler.

His record of competing in 48 tournaments as a grand champion has only been bettered by sumo's three legendary greats; Kitanoumi, Chiyonofuji, and Taiho.

Akebono said he would remain in the sumo world as a coach after his retirement.

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