The View from Japan
Torii gate


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Ake pushes opponant out of ring.Is being married to a Yokozuna tough for Christine? "It's hard for her. I know she's trying hard. It's different for her, growing up in the military, and then all of a sudden you're a Yokozuna's wife. There's some responsibilities that she has. I don't expect her to know everything straight off the bat, but she's trying."

Akebono himself had some adjusting to do after his back injury sidelined him for six months, and he admits that he was a bit nervous about his return. "When I was winning all my tournaments in a row, it was like I was here, and everyone was still coming, trying to catch up," he recalls. "When I was out for six months, there was a lot of young kids that came up, people I never wrestled against. But from the last tournament, I feel that I'm stronger now where I'm at than where I was before, because everybody around me became strong and I was still able to win." Fear had been a good motivator for him: "I hate being scared."

Along with concentration and motivation, he clearly sees the importance of being in good physical condition as well. "When you're first coming up, you go out, you eat, you come home, you go out again, you don't care about your body. But when you get injured, you learn how to take care of your body." Though he has mostly recovered from his injury (his doctors say his back will never be 100% again), he continues to take good care of himself. His routine these days is to "practice hard, go to the gym, and then as much as possible, when I have time, just rest."Akebono outdoors

Technique is another area that he continues to work on, admitting that he realized the need to do so due to his injury and the last-day loss of the Nagoya Tournament. While a strategy of bulldozing opponents out of the ring got him where he is today, it also left him kissing the dohyo when Dejima jumped out of his way in July. "When you're out there winning and people tell you 'You should do some side-to-side moving,' you tell them, 'What're you talking about?' But now I've found my weak points, and I do a lot of side-to-side exercises."

Since there are no other Makuuchi wrestlers in his stable, Akebono goes to other stables to practice against their top-ranked fighters. "It's hard for me because I have nobody to practice with, so I always have to go out." This allows him to observe, and fight against, wrestlers who use various styles of sumo.

Of all the fights in his career, which one stands out most in his mind? He recalls his first Makuuchi-level bout with Takanohana, then called Takahanada. "The Japanese kids that was around in our stable said, 'Oh, you can't beat him!' I went out there, one crack to his jaw, and he went down!" he grins.

How would he like to be remembered fifty or a hundred years from now? "I'd just like to be remembered, period. If I could, I would like to be remembered as somebody who came, followed his dream, no matter what roadblocks he ran into. If you put your mind to it you can do whatever you set out to do. If I could be remembered I'd just like to be remembered like that. The little train that could."

When asked if he receives much help or encouragement from his stablemaster, he replies, "Basically when a tournament starts, it's just all up to you. You're the one out there, you're wrestling, you're the one going through practices. When you get to where we're at, you're not supposed to be 'told'. You're supposed to figure out what's going on.

"This is not a team sport where, if I come out and mess up, somebody else can come and back me up."


In September's Aki Basho, Akebono tore a groin muscle on the third day and was forced to drop out of the tournament. Will he achieve his dream of posing for photos with his daughter and the Emperor's Cup? Stay tuned.

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Copyright 2003 This page last updated November 1, 2002 . E-mail Tim