Kisenosato Yutaka, 30, has been crowned grand champion in the sport of sumo for the first time in almost two decades.
A late bloomer like his mentor, sumo wrestler Kisenosato has won the title of yokozuna after traveling a lengthy, bumpy road.
Kisenosato officially became the 72nd grand champion in sumo history on Wednesday after the Japan Sumo Association finalized his promotion at its executive committee meeting.
JSA executives rubber-stamped the promotion of the 30-year-old Kisenosato based on the recommendation unanimously made Monday by members of the Yokozuna Deliberation Council, an advisory body to the association, after he won his maiden title at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
“I accept (the promotion) with great humility. I will devote myself and try not to disgrace the yokozuna name,” Kisenosato said in a formal ceremony to notify him of his promotion.
“I want to be even more focused,” he said after the ceremony. “I have grown also as a person and I want to become a yokozuna that is respected.”
“I have to be conscious (of my position) and winning the championship title at the next tournament (is my next goal),” he said.
Kisenosato becomes the first Japanese wrestler to be promoted to sumo’s top rank of grand champion since Wakanohana in 1998.
Kisenosato won his first championship title on Sunday with a 14-1 mark.
Eight of the last nine yokozuna secured promotion by winning their preceding two tournaments. Mongolian Kakuryu, the last to be promoted to yokozuna ahead of the May 2014 meet, lost in a playoff that January despite finishing 14-1, but won the title in March.
So often accused of being mentally fragile, Kisenosato has finished second-best at a meet 12 times. After Kotoshokigu and Goeido captured their first titles last year, Kisenosato had become the only Japanese ozeki not to have won a trophy.
But Kisenosato found consistency and finally came into his own in 2016, becoming the first wrestler to win the most bouts in a season without winning a single title.
“I feel grateful to all the people that have helped me,” said Kisenosato, who paid tribute to his late stablemaster Naruto.
“If I had not met my former trainer I would not have got to where I have now,” he said. “I have nothing but gratitude.”
Mongolian Kakuryu was the last wrestler promoted to yokozuna in 2014.
There will now be four wrestlers fighting as yokozuna for the first time in 17 years at the Spring meet in March.