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Tochinoshin Tsuyyoshi, one of the most popular sumo wrestlers on the circuit, announced his retirement today, six days into the May Tournament. He walks away from competition at 35-years-old.
Tochinoshin’s announcement draws a close to a 17-year-career that saw the ‘Georgian Forklift’ reach the rank of ozeki, just one step below the hallowed position of yokozuna.
Born Levan Gorgadze in Mtskheta, Georgia, Tochinoshin grew up practising judo and sambo before competing in amateur sumo. In the early 2000s he competed at the World Junior Championships and World Championships. Based on those appearances he was recruited to the Kasugano Stable.
He began competing in Grand Sumo in 2006, competing in the jonokuchi division (the lowest in pro sumo). In 2008 he secured promotion to the juryo division (the second division in pro sumo and the first that provides its competitors a salary).
He won the championship in his first juryo tournament and was promoted to the makuuchi (top division) a few months later.
Rise to ozeki
After a consistent run of winning records in the makuuchi Tochonoshin was promoted to the upper rank of komusubi. He then bounced back and forth between winning and losing records before an injury hit 2013 campaign saw him demoted to juryo and then makushita.
In late 2014 he rediscovered winning form, won another juryo championship and then got promoted back to makuuchi. In 2018 he was promoted to ozeki thanks to a 14-1 championship win followed by 10-5 and 13-2 (runner-up) performances.
His run as ozeki lasted for seven tournaments (not including a brief demotion to sekiwake).
In 2020 he exited the upper ranks and struggled to compete in makuuchi through a combination of advanced age and recurring injuries.
Tochinoshin in 2023
At the January tournament Tochinoshin was ranked maegashira 11. On Day 5 of the tournament he suffered a shoulder injury against Kotoshoho that forced him out of the remainder of the tournament. That lead to a 2-3-10 record and demotion back to juryo.
He finished the March tournament with a 5-10 record. During the May tournament he had gotten off to a 0-6 start. This month, as in March, Tochinoshin looked incapable of generating the lifting power that earned him the nickname ‘The Georgian Forklift’. He also seemed incapable of pushing other rikishi backwards or halting their progress forwards, probably because his shoulder risked popping out at any moment.
“I’m unable to generate any power,” said Tochinoshin at his retirement announcement (per Kyodo News).
Tochinoshin has not acquired Japanese citizenship during his time in Japan. This means he is not qualified to be an elder within the Japanese Sumo Association. Because of this Tochinoshin will not remain in sumo as an official or coach.
“I arrived from Georgia knowing nothing, and the Kasugano stable nurtured me,” Tochinoshin said. “I’m grateful for being able to come to Japan and to be able to be a part of sumo.”
Tochinoshin will be remembered as one of the most successful Europeans to ever compete in sumo. Additionally, he will be remembered as one of the most popular figures to ever enter, and leave, the dohyo.
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