Ozeki Goeido has retired as a sumo wrestler and will move on to a new role as an elder at the Sakaigawa stable under the toshiyori name Takekuma, the Japan Sumo Association said Tuesday.
The 33-year-old Osaka native, who had been facing demotion following two consecutive losing records, is the first wrestler to retire as an ozeki, sumo's second-highest rank, since Kaio in July 2011.
Injury-plagued Goeido was kadoban (needing eight wins to maintain his rank) at the just-ended New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, but finished the Jan. 12-26 meet with a 5-10 record.
He withdrew from November's Kyushu basho with an injured left ankle and was diagnosed with torn ligaments requiring eight weeks of rehab.
(Goeido celebrates the only title of his sumo career in September, 2016)
A former high school yokozuna at Saitama Sakae High School, Goeido, whose real name is Gotaro Sawai, made his professional debut in January 2005.
He reached the top makuuchi division in 2007, and was known for his migiyotsu, or right hand inside mawashi grip, and yori, a clinching move.
Goeido was promoted to ozeki ahead of the September 2014 grand tournament and he won the Emperor's Cup with a perfect 15-0 record two years later. It was his first and only top division championship. He was runner-up seven times in his career.
He fought in 33 tournaments at sumo's second highest rank, the 10th most in the sport's history.
Prior to his ozeki promotion, he fought in 14 consecutive tournaments as a sekiwake, the longest streak since the start of the Showa era in 1926.
Goeido won 11 special prizes over the course of a pro career in which he won 696 bouts and lost 493.
His retirement leaves 23-year-old Takakeisho as the lone ozeki in March, marking the first time in 38 years that there is only one ozeki on the banzuke