The Japan Sumo Association said Friday a wrestler has tested positive for the new coronavirus, marking the first confirmed case in the country's ancient sport.
The wrestler, whose name and stable were not disclosed, competes in one of the sport's lower divisions, the JSA said. He first developed a fever on Saturday, but none of his stablemates or officials have complained of any symptoms.
"It made me realize that infections exist close by us. I hope from the bottom of my heart that (the wrestler's) condition doesn't become severe," sumo elder Shibatayama, the association's communications director, said over the phone.
The case comes as a new blow to the association, which has already been forced to make changes to the schedule and format of its grand tournaments in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
After the drastic step of holding March's spring tournament in in Osaka without spectators, the association delayed the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo by two weeks, with a new start date of May 24.
It has said the Tokyo meet might also be held without spectators or canceled altogether depending on the situation of the pandemic.
Shibatayama said, "The situation around the world has become more serious. We need to decide the direction we are going (with the meet)."
In the meantime, the JSA will consult local health authorities as they try to learn who the wrestler might have been in contact with both in and out of the stable. The association has also told wrestlers and officials from all stables to stay indoors.
During the spring tournament in March, No. 15 maegashira Chiyomaru pulled out with a fever but tested negative for the coronavirus. The Osaka event would have been canceled had any wrestler or association official tested positive.
Several athletes have already tested positive in the J-League, the country's pro soccer establishment, and in Nippon Professional Baseball as one sport's season after another in Japan has been suspended in response to the virus.