Tokyo — Hawaii-born Akebono, one of many greats of sumo wrestling and a former grand champion, has died. He was 54. He was the primary foreign-born wrestler to achieve the extent of “yokozuna” – or grand champion – in Japan.

“It is with disappointment that we announce Akebono Taro died of coronary heart failure earlier this month whereas receiving care at a hospital within the Tokyo space,” the household mentioned in an announcement.

His spouse Christine Rowan, in an electronic mail to The Associated Press, mentioned he died “throughout the previous week” however declined to provide particulars.

“I needed to have a tendency to non-public issues that wanted to be finished previous to publicly saying my husband’s demise,” she mentioned.

Akebono grew up on the agricultural aspect of the Koolau mountains from Honolulu and was born Chad Rowan.

He moved to Tokyo within the late Eighties and gained his first grand championship in 1993.

At the prime of his profession he was an actual big, reported on the time to weigh 500 kilos and stand 6-feet-8.

FILE PHOTO: Akebono gestures before fighting at K-1 World Grand Prix in Honolulu.
Akebono Taro gestures earlier than preventing on the Ok-1 World Grand Prix in Honolulu in July 2005.

Reuters Photographer / REUTERS

The United States ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, posted his condolences on social media.

“I used to be deeply saddened to study of the passing of Akebono, an enormous on the earth of sumo, a proud Hawaiian and a bridge between the United States and Japan,” Emanuel posted.

“When Akebono grew to become the first-ever foreign-born grand champion, sumo’s highest rank, in 1993, he opened the door for different overseas wrestlers to seek out success within the sport. Throughout his 35 years in Japan, Akebono strengthened the cultural ties between the United States and his adopted homeland by uniting us all by sport.”

Akebono was an 11-time grand match winner. He retired in 2001.

The household’s assertion mentioned family and friends will maintain a “personal celebration of his life.” He is survived by his spouse, daughter and two sons.

“The household kindly asks for privateness throughout this time of mourning,” the assertion mentioned.