Japan crowns homegrown sumo champion after 19-year wait

    Kisenosato holds a fish during a ceremony promoting him to the highest rank of sumo wrestling, accompanied by his trainer and trainer's wife.

    Story highlights

    • New sumo champion crowned after 14 wins in January tournament
    • Sport has been dominated by Mongolians and other foreigners in recent years

    (CNN)After almost two decades of foreigners dominating its most iconic sport, Japan has a homegrown sumo champion again.

    On Wednesday the Japan Sumo Association conferred on 30-year-old Kisenosato the sport's highest rank, yokozuna, making him the 72nd Grand Champion and the first Japanese wrestler to gain the title since Wakanohana in 1998.
      "I accept with all humility," Kisenosato said at a ceremony to mark his promotion.
        "I will devote myself to the role and try not to disgrace the title of yokozuna."

        Lonely at the top

        Professional sumo consists of 10 levels, from jonokuchi to yokozuna, with wrestlers rising through the ranks as they rack up tournament wins.
        After being promoted to ozeki, the second-highest rank, sumo wrestlers must win two consecutive tournaments or post an equivalent record of wins.
        After that, a judging body decides whether the wrestler has demonstrated the "correct character, poise and dignity."
        Among the more than 600 professional sumo wrestlers, there are currently less than four yokozuna, according to NHK.
        Kisenosato's promotion comes after winning the new year tournament with a record of 14 victories and one defeat.
        The 175 kilogram (385 lb) Kisenosato, real name Yutaka Hagiwara, has been competing since 2002, reaching the rank of ozeki in five years ago.