Retiring sumo great Hakuho bids emotional farewell
The Mongolian-born 36-year-old struggled to maintain his stoic composure at times as he reflected on a 20-year career during which he won a record 45 tournaments.
Sitting alongside his stablemaster, Miyagino, who trained him since he moved to Japan aged 15, Hakuho said a persistent knee injury made it impossible to keep competing.
He fought more bouts at sumo's highest rank of yokozuna than anyone in history and said his achievements went beyond anything he had expected.
"But I never thought I would win 45 tournaments. I just took it step by step and it all built up to become what it did," he added, speaking publicly for the first time since his retirement was announced this week.
Hakuho has struggled with injury over the past year and underwent two operations on his right knee in the space of eight months.
He missed all or part of six straight tournaments but made a triumphant comeback at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament in July, winning the title with a perfect 15-0 record.
But he revealed Friday that his decision to retire was made midway through that competition, with his knee needing to be iced almost constantly in order to compete.
"No one really likes practice, to be honest," Hakuho said.
"But I wanted to get stronger and repay my teacher's faith in me. I wanted him to praise me."
He was promoted to yokozuna at 22 and overtook the legendary Taiho's record of 32 tournament wins in January 2015.
"I want to be the kind of instructor who is kind and thinks about the wrestlers he is teaching," he said.
"More than being happy I became a yokozuna, it means everything to me that I became a sumo wrestler," he added.