Sumo world floored by wrestler's death, tournament cancelation
Japan Today -- May 24
The sumo world is grappling with its latest crisis as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed the life of a 28-year-old wrestler and forced the cancellation of the sport's showpiece May tournament.

Shobushi, who competed in the sport's fourth-tier sandanme division, was the first rikishi to test positive for the pneumonia-causing virus on April 10.

The wrestler, who had diabetes, was in intensive care for nearly a month before dying of multiple organ failure on May 13.

Around a week before his death, the Japan Sumo Association announced the cancellation of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament following the government's extension of its nationwide state of emergency in response to the outbreak.

"With the spread of the disease, just about everything is spoiled," lamented sumo elder Shibatayama, the JSA's public relations manager.

The six grand tournaments held each year are the lifeblood of professional sumo. As the sport's biggest stages, they allow wrestlers to reap the rewards of their arduous training by showcasing their skills and, potentially, climb the rankings.

As former wrestlers, JSA Chairman Hakkaku and other executives of the association know firsthand the value of competition, and had been seeking to hold the year's third grand tournament as scheduled between May 24 and June 7 at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.

After March's Spring Grand Sumo Tournament was held in Osaka behind closed doors -- a first in the sport's history -- JSA officials said they had introduced countermeasures, including testing, to allow the Summer meet to go ahead.

To avoid the risk of infection, the masuseki boxed enclosures, usually accommodating four people, were to be limited to one spectator each, with second-floor seats to be spaced apart in accordance with social distancing guidelines.

News source: Japan Today
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