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Hawaii-Born Sumo Champion Akebono Taro Dies Aged 54 In Japan

Akebono Taro, who was born Chad Rowan and became the sport’s first non-Japanese grand champion in 1993, has passed away aged 54

Akebono Taro, Sumo Champion, Yokozuna, AP/File Photo
Sumo champion Akebono Taro. Photo: AP/File
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Tributes are pouring in for Japanese sumo icon Akebono Taro, the first foreign wrestler to reach the level of 'yokozuna', passed away in Japan. He was 54. (More Sports News)

“It is with sadness that we announce Akebono Taro died of heart failure earlier this month while receiving care at a hospital in the Tokyo area,” the family said in a statement obtained from the office of Hawaii Gov. Josh Green.

Akebono grew up in the rural areas of the Koolau mountains from Honolulu and was born Chad Rowan.

He moved to Tokyo in the late 1980s and won his first grand championship in 1993.

At the prime of his career he was a real giant, reported at the time to weigh 500 pounds (225 kilos) and stand 6-feet-8 — or 2.03 meters.

Akebono won 11 major sumo tournaments, which are held six times a year. He called time on his sumo career in 2001 and turned his attention to K-1 and professional wrestling.

He was also the runners-up in 13 tournaments, despite plagued with injury.

The family’s statement said friends and family will hold a “private celebration of his life.” He is survived by his wife, daughter and two sons.

(With AP inputs)

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