Yokozuna Hakuho, who captured a record 39th career title at the just-ended Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament, said Monday the reality of having won the championship and made multiple record-breaking feats along the way has finally sunk in.
Speaking at the traditional day-after victory press conference following the 15-day meet at the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, Hakuho said he is nowhere near the end and will continue to put up numbers expected of a grand champion.
On the ninth day of the Nagoya tourney, the 32-year-old wrestler from Ulan Bator equaled late former yokozuna Chiyonofuji for second on the all-time list with 1,045 career wins. Three days later, he sat alongside former ozeki Kaio atop the list with 1,047.
On Friday, he surpassed Kaio's record, which was set back in 2011.
Hakuho finished the Nagoya basho with a 14-1 record while Harumafuji, the only other yokozuna who competed all 15 days, went 11-4. Fellow grand champions Kakuryu and Kisenosato pulled out after three days and six days, respectively, due to injuries.
"The big record, and the feeling that I really won just came down on me and I'm overflowing with emotions," Hakuho said.
"The 1,045 wins, the 1,047 wins, the championship. One thing kept happening after another, and there has never been a basho like this one. In that sense it was tiring," he said.
Meanwhile, the Yokozuna Deliberation Council decided at a meeting in Tokyo to present a special award to Hakuho for setting new marks in sumo.
"I don't think anyone will be able to break his records. His achievements are great," said Masato Kitamura, chairman of the council, an advisory body to the Japan Sumo Association.
Some council members, however, complained about the yokozuna's fighting style, such as his harsh slaps on his opponents and moving sideways at face-off.
"There were opinions that the slaps aren't yokozuna-like moves and they wondered if something can be done about them because they don't leave a good impression," Kitamura said. "I'm not too impressed by them either."
Hakuho, who is reportedly considering obtaining Japanese citizenship, will spend some time in Mongolia before he tackles the challenge of winning an unprecedented 40th title at the Autumn tournament, which gets under way Sept. 10 in Tokyo.
"I injured my foot in Nagoya (last year) but made up for that by getting my payback here in Nagoya. I set the big record in front of fans from around the world. It was an unforgettable 15 days," he said.
"If I keep on training as I always have, more and more wins will come my way," he said.
While setting his sights on his immediate goal, Hakuho looked ahead to 2020, saying he would like to be involved in some way with the Tokyo Olympics, which gets under way exactly three years from Monday.
"All four yokozuna fighting on the final day is ideal. That's what fans want to see," Hakuho said. "It would be nice for the four of us to do the dohyo-iri (ring-entering ceremony at the Tokyo Olympics)."
The spring meet in March featured four grand champions for the first time in 17 years and all four started in the next two meets as well, but in none of the three tournaments have all lasted the whole 15 days.