Mongolian-born "yokozuna", or grand champion, sumo wrestler Hakuho speaks to the media in Tokyo on September 3, 2019. (Photo by JIJI PRESS / JIJI PRESS / AFP)

TOKYO, – Record-breaking sumo champion Hakuho said Tuesday he had given up his Mongolian nationality and acquired Japanese citizenship, clearing the way to run his own stable of wrestlers in the future.

“I found out about it at around 8:30 this morning and I could hardly believe it was real,” said Hakuho, a much-revered yokozuna grand champion in the traditional Japanese sport.

“It may be because it was soon after I woke up,” the 34-year-old wrestler told reporters with a smile.

Hakuho, the son of a Mongolian wrestling champion and an Olympic wrestling silver medallist, came to Japan at age 15 to enter the sumo world. He was born Munkhbat Davaajargal.

“People around me may think I’m special but I wasn’t special at all when I was 15. I became strong after completing practice after practice,” he said.

“I have single-heartedly pursued sumo for the past 18 years.”

As Japan does not allow multiple nationalities for adults over 22, Hakuho needed to relinquish his Mongolian citizenship.

A wrestler does not need to hold Japanese nationality to compete in tournaments but only Japanese citizens can become a stablemaster after retirement.

Hakuho has won a record 42 sumo tournaments known as bashos.

He is the third foreign yokozuna to attain Japanese citizenship, according to local media. Two others were from Hawaii.

But acquiring Japanese citizenship is relatively rare.

According to justice ministry data, about 1,000 foreign nationals annually have obtained a Japanese passport in recent years. (AFP)


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