American becomes first non-Japanese to achieve highest rank in sumo wrestling


On January 25, 1993, American Chad Rowan becomes the first non-Japanese sumo wrestler to become a “yokozuna,” the sport’s highest rank. Rowan, a 23-year-old Hawaii native who stands 6-foot-8 and weighs 455 pounds, is the 64th person to hold the top rank in sumo, Japan’s national sport. 

Rowan, who went by his sumo name, Akebono, which means “Sunrise” or “Dawn,” was unnaturally tall for a sumo wrestler but extremely long and athletic. Despite only playing high school basketball his senior year, he earned a basketball scholarship to Hawaii Pacific University. However, he quit basketball and dropped out of college to pursue a career in sumo wrestling.


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