Injury-plagued ozeki Goeido, who was poised to forfeit his elite ranking after finishing the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament with a 5-10 record, has decided to retire, a Japan Sumo Association spokesman revealed Monday.
The 33-year-old wrestler, who won one grand tournament championship, was facing demotion to sekiwake after two straight tourneys without a winning record. Goeido was promoted to ozeki ahead of the September 2014 grand tournament. He fought in 33 tournaments at sumo's second highest rank, the 10th most in the sport's history.
Prior to that promotion, he fought in 14 consecutive tournaments as a sekiwake, the longest streak since the start of the Showa era in 1926.
(Goeido (back) defeats Shodai.)
Sumo elder Shibatayama, the JSA's director of communications, said, "I was told by (stablemaster) Sakaigawa of his intention to retire. An official announcement will come after the process is complete."
Goeido withdrew hurt from November's Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament, making him a "kadoban" ozeki in January who would forfeit his ozeki rank if he failed to notch eight wins. But he entered the New Year tourney nursing an ankle injury.
He becomes the first wrestler to retire as an ozeki since Kaio called it quits following the July 2011 Nagoya tourney.
(File photo taken in Tokyo in September 2016 shows Goeido celebrating the only title of his sumo career.)
Goeido won 11 special prizes over the course of a pro career in which he won 696 bouts and lost 493.
A year ago, Goeido, who had prided himself on portraying an image of strength, spoke about his uncertain future.
"When I consider may age, I am not going to be able to keep going for a lot longer," he said. "Going forward, my focus is not on one tournament at a time, but just getting through the challenge of each day."
His retirement will leave 23-year-old Takakeisho as the lone ozeki in March, the first time this has happened since January 1982.
Since Tochinoshin was demoted after the July tourney, Goeido's downfall marked a record fourth straight tournament in which a relegation-threatened ozeki failed to win eight bouts, following Takakeisho in September and Takayasu in November.