Japan sumo champion Hakuho tests positive for coronavirus

Tokyo (AFP) –


Record-breaking sumo champion Hakuho has tested positive for coronavirus, just days before the New Year tournament, the Japan Sumo Association said Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the JSA said it was not clear if anyone else at Hakuho's Miyagino stable had tested positive for the virus, or if Hakuho was displaying symptoms, though local media reported he was tested after noticing a loss of smell.

The Mongolian-born 35-year-old, who has won a record 44 tournaments and holds sumo's highest rank of yokozuna, had been preparing for the 15-day New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, which starts Sunday in Tokyo.

The JSA spokesperson said his participation in the basho, or tournament, was as yet undecided.

His infection comes after 11 members of the Arashio stable tested positive last week following the infection of top-division wrestler Wakatakakage.

Hakuho has been dealing with a knee injury and has not completed a tournament since March, when he won the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka.

He withdrew from three straight tournaments this year, and was given an official warning by the JSA along with fellow yokozuna Kakuryu in November for repeated absences.

The warning is the sport's strongest rebuke, short of recommending retirement.

Hakuho, who was born Munkhbat Davaajargal, came to Japan at age 15 to enter the sumo world and acquired Japanese citizenship in September 2019.

A 20-year-old sumo wrestler died in Japan last May after contracting the virus and suffering multiple organ failure.