Terunofuji G. Gan-Erdene, the 73rd yokozuna of professional sumo wrestling, has returned to his homeland. In addition to resting, the champion came to launch his new book.
The launch of his book titled “Tomorrow from the Bottom of the Abyss” was held yesterday at “Internom” store. This book was published in Japan two years ago and became a bestseller, and it is being translated into Mongolian. The book was translated by journalist H. Erdenetse and edited by D. Natsagdorji award-winning poet and writer M. Uyansukh. The story and path of Terunofuji, who faced many difficulties such as injury and illness, lost the title of ozkei, fell to the rank of jonidan, but thanks to his indomitable attitude and hard work, he rose again and won the title of yokozuna, the pinnacle of sumo.
After the launch of the book, I would like to tell the readers that I visited the home of the Terunofuji champion and had a conversation.
– First of all, congratulations on the release of the new book. The book launch was good. A lot of people came. When did you get the idea to write a book? How long did it take to write?
– After returning to the top level and winning, many people suggested that I write a book. At first, I felt a bit embarrassed and worried, because it seems like you are praising yourself for reading a book. In fact, it started with the pressure of many people. When I started writing, things came to my mind that I could inspire people, that I should make people feel the life that I have lived, and I continued to write, and my book was ready two years ago.
– In the history of professional sumo, there is no wrestler with a biography and history like yours. The title of the book is “Tomorrow rising from the bottom of the abyss”. How did you come up with the title? Sounds like a great title to me?
– There were different ideas. I went down exactly seven ranks: ozeki, sekiwake, komusubi, maegashira, makushita, sandanme, jonidan. After going up eight ranks, he reached the title of yokozuna. “Seven worse, eight better” happened. But I thought it was on the title to leave a comment for the reader, so I gave it this name.
– Like many of our wrestlers, you entered the profession through the Tottori Joyohoku school. When you were in Mongolia, did you practice judo with teacher Ts. Shiirev?
– Hakuho champion’s father J. Monkhbat champion was the one who first introduced me to the path of wrestling. My relative’s brother, A. Ganbaatar’s brother Timur, who is a wrestling commentator, said that my brother J. Monkhbat told the champion that I was a wrestler. I had little interest in wrestling. My father operated a gold mine. He was a kid who thought he would go in that field, participated in mathematics and physics olympiads and competitions. However, J. Monkhbat started his journey to becoming a wrestler when he was apprenticed to champion Ts. Shiirev.
– What kind of athletes did Ts. Shiirev train with?
– Judo players D. Temurkhuleg, L. Otgonbaatar, D. Anar, and B. Serik were together.
– When you entered the profession, you fought one basho each of the three lower levels of jonokuchi, jonidan, and sandanme, and then you went to makushita?
– Yes, I know all the steps and rides by heart until I become an ozeki. Until I became ozeki, I failed to achieve 50% three times. When we went to Makushita 10, our stage was disbanded. The Magaki Stage was the second Wakanohana Championship Stage. My teacher had a stroke, his body could no longer cope, and his wrestlers moved to the “Isegahama” stage. Our team had three wrestlers, but the “Isegahama” stage was a busy stage with many titles such as Harumafuji champion, Aminishiki, Takarafuji, Homarefuji.
– After entering a Japanese university and becoming a student yokozuna, did you have any intention of entering a profession? Isn’t it easy to enter directly from Makushita?
– There was no such possibility. There is a rule that there is only one foreign wrestler in one stage, so you have to enter the stage where you find it.
– I remember you went to a temple called Wakamishyo. In September 2011, when he was in jonidan, he won 4 consecutive victories over Daido of the highest level in training and created a sensation. Was it at that time that he had reached the point where he could wrestle with the nobles?
– In general, wrestling in training and basho are different. It was not enough to compete at the top level. It was lucky.
– In July 2013, you became a sekitori. You must be very happy, right? Become a title wrestler and get paid?
– When you become a sekitori, you will be better financially than before, and you will have free time for yourself. In that respect, it was pleasant, but psychologically there was not much change. From the beginning, the big title was my goal, so I thought that it would pass the jury.
– He directly won his first bash on the jury. At that time, was he a sumo wrestler who aimed to become like this wrestler?
– When I first started watching sumo, sumo was shown on almost every television in Mongolia. At that time, Kayo became a lion fan and became interested in the temple. The whole situation is male. The mood is modest, shallow and powerful.
– He passed the jury soon and entered the top ranks. That’s how the top ranks were shaken up and all the awards they deserved. There was a time when he would not hesitate to put his hand in the mouth of a mad tiger. Looking back on that time?
– I could feel myself improving day by day. If you can’t do it today, you can do it tomorrow. At the same time, there was a lot of nose-picking. Naturally, I drank, thinking that I would get over it. When he was young, he used to do stupid things like wrestling after going to Basho.
-In 2015, he won his first title at Natsu Bash. It’s ozeki. As you just said, a very confident and timid lion appeared. When asked by a journalist, “What kind of ozeki do you want to be?”, he answered, “I intend to be promoted above ozeki”?
– During the training, I was better at wrestling with giants and lions.
– Will the training be done well?
– I used to do all the training. June is the peak of our arena training. There is a rule that at least 100 matches will be played in one day. After a hundred fights, Harumafuji the champion or Aminishiki brother will take turns to give their chests and train for 30 minutes to win. Harumafuji champion, Aminishiki, Takarafuji, Homarefuji were wrestlers with different wrestling styles in our arena, so there were good conditions for training. Our teacher, Asahifuji, the 63rd champion, is a strict teacher even in training.
-Unfortunately, from January 2016, I started missing the basho or not being able to do 50 percent of it. What exactly happened then? Did the audience not know the details of the injury?
– I won the May 2015 bash and was the lion in the July bash. After going undefeated in the July tournament and going undefeated in the Fall tournament, Kisenosato tore the cruciate ligament in his right knee while wrestling ozeki. The next day, Kakuryu went head-to-head with the champion, and I took the lead. Two bashos are being pointed out in a row. At that time, even if the cruciate ligament of the right knee is torn, if an operation is performed, he will not be able to wrestle for half a year to a year. Lose the title, fall down. I must say that I was confident in myself, and I thought that I would overcome this situation, so I continued to fight. Crushed the soft tissue in his left knee at the November bash. In the next match, he tied his knees and broke his collarbone. And then the success began to decline. In order to get injured in one place, they protect it, use other muscles to fight, and get injured.
– At that time, do you regret having surgery after missing a year?
– I don’t regret now. Because I got sick then and now I think I am like this. A lot of people think I’m down due to injury. In my case, the reason why I fell down was more than an injury, but it was due to the combination of three diseases: diabetes, hepatitis C virus, and kidney stones. It’s because of my wrong lifestyle. No matter how hard I tried, my muscles could not come out anymore. The whole body swells and expels. Because of this, he could not fight and fell.
– Have you ever thought of quitting wrestling or retiring?
– After falling from the ozeki, I said to my teacher, “I can’t continue sumo wrestling, let’s stop.” I was 25 years old. At that time, my teacher said, “It doesn’t matter whether you stop or not, this disease will interfere with your life. Therefore, cure your illness first. After that, let’s talk together.” I told my teacher to retire a total of five times while I was down. The teacher gave me only one answer each time and sent me back. When I was riding, I naturally thought I would stop, so I had surgery on both knees. He started treatment for diabetes and hepatitis C virus. I lost 30 kilos and got treatment for my illness.
-Meanwhile, your bantsuke fell to jonidan. If a person who was an ozeki is going to wrestle in a jonidan, then it’s a matter of honor, right?
– Of course, you must think about honor. I was shy to go on stage. If we talk about national wrestling, it means that the lion man has been stripped of his title and is now becoming an arrowhead. It’s also difficult to go to the festival and fight with a title like Sumy’s. It was no different. At that time, someone said to me, “We want to see you wrestle again. Don’t think about what people think of me. Fight while we are supporting. People don’t think as highly of you as you think you do. When you wrestle back, no one will think that Terunofuji is not ashamed, instead of thinking that Terunofuji is trying.” This word struck me very deeply and made me think that I actually watch wrestling. At that time, the disease got better, the surgery was done and I was able to walk. Then one evening I left the house and drank alone. I went to the hotel, bought a pack of cigarettes and a lot of alcohol, drank for two days and talked to myself. When you’re with other people, you don’t show your weaknesses, you can’t focus on what’s wrong with you. They try to hide it and look strong. That’s why I thought that if you don’t talk to yourself directly, it won’t work.
– And what was the solution?
– There are two options: to wrestle or not to wrestle. If you don’t fight, our teacher won’t stop you. Second, a person who was an ozeki can no longer perform the ceremony, retire, or run away. I put it out of my mind saying that there is no option not to fight. In general, I went to organize my thoughts. Well, that’s it. Then, when it comes to wrestling, there are two options: go with the flow, or fight to the death. It’s understandable… It should be done until a decision is made. After organizing my thoughts for two days, I returned home, three strength training instructors from Mongolia brought me to Japan for a month and a half, and trained in strength training for a year and a half.
– There must have been a lot of support from teachers, family, and wrestlers in such a difficult time. And there must have been someone to leave?
– When there are people who leave, there are people who stay. At that time, my teacher said something to me. It sounded bad at first, but it was the truth. “You can’t blame those who have distanced themselves from you. Because if you didn’t ride, these people wouldn’t go away. “It’s your fault.” I really thought that if I had not fallen and fought well, these people would not have gone away. It brought me to a different way of thinking, not hating people.
– What was it like when you started wrestling back from Jonida? Almost no audience. What was the mind of the Ozeki?
– The feeling of shame was the biggest. Ever since I joined the professional church, every time I wrestled, I had absolutely no panic or stress. Naturally, I wrestled with the thought that I would pass. If I fall, my rival wrestler will think that I have passed because I have trained more than me. Even if today is a decisive fight, I don’t think about what to do. But when I went back to jonidan and did my first fight, I thought that panic and stress must be such a hard thing. My heart skipped a beat when I sat next to Dohyeon… It was the first and last time I experienced such a feeling. I trained for a month, gained weight and came out. When I got on stage, I felt very light. I have no idea how I fought. On the way back, I saw that this is how they wrestled. I think that was the panic.
– Did you see the yokozuna title when you started again from Jonida?
– No. I used to set goals for the year. Just like that, it started again. I started wrestling again in March and set a goal that I should be on the jury at this year’s November bash. I left with my main focus on where Terunofuji should be next year, not on this bash. Then I wrestled in November, and in January I joined the jury. The goals for the next year have been redefined. At the pre-Olympic party in Tokyo, I made a goal to go out and win. People who supported me were saying that you are going to achieve your goal. He set his goals one step higher and went on to achieve them. Apart from that, even if he thinks about his physical condition, he doesn’t think that he will regain his lion title and become a champion when he wrestles again in jonidan.
– Have you ever worked with a psychologist?
– No, I am my own psychologist. I am like a person who thinks a lot and calculates.
-When he came back, he even reached the peak of professional sumo wrestling called yokozuna. Only 73 people have won this title in the history of many years. Were you excited when Yokozuna was happening? It’s a very bumpy road to the top, isn’t it?
– I was not excited and happy, on the contrary, I felt relieved. There were many people who supported and helped me at that time. The only thought in my mind was that I was able to give people the feeling that they did not support the wrong person. Other than that, I had no idea that I had become a champion.
– Mongolian wrestling champion and Japanese sumo wrestling yokozuna are different. Yokozuna has a lot of responsibilities, such as the face of the federation. You have been a yokozuna for two years alone. It means that the union is being carried. It’s a lot of responsibility, isn’t it?
– We seem to have a misunderstanding. I’m the one who’s carrying it, and if I’m not there, it’s over. Naturally, when a generation of sumo wrestlers or national wrestlers is over, the next generation will come. It’s not that there is a difference between whether or not there will be a gap between them, it’s not that one person is carrying everything alone. Now when I stop, the next guys will take it.
– You have been wrestling professionally for 12 years. Who would you name as a competitor during this period?
– I have never seen anyone as a competitor. When I first came out, there were many lions and giants. The lions were Harumafuji Giant, Hakuho Giant, Kakuryu Giant, Kisenosato, Goeido, and Kotoshyogiku. At that time, I was overconfident and thought I had no competition. Even if you think about it now, there is no real competitor. It seems that he does not think of competing with people. Wrestlers always try to name someone as an opponent. I don’t have that. Your own competitor.
– Do you have a whole team working behind you?
– It was not there before. But when he came back, there was a team of forty people. I have people working on internal organs. There are people working on leg and back injuries. When it comes to strength training, there are specialists who are responsible for visual muscles, movement muscles, and power muscles. Such as recreation. When he retires, he plans to form a team and take pictures.
– Even now, when I watch your wrestling, both knees are completely wrapped. Still can’t wrestle without pads or protection?
– My left knee is fully stretched and cannot bend, so it is fixed with iron on both sides. Otherwise, sonkyo can’t do squats. It means that it is fixed on the iron.
– There is a terrible saying in your book, “When only one person supports me, I must fight for that one person”?
– As I said above, it won’t work if you don’t fight for the people you support.
– Two-time Japanese Olympic champion Shyohei Ono and you are close friends. Ono suddenly retired. Are you thinking of retirement?
– Ono and I are old friends. I had two more knee surgeries last October. I didn’t think that such thoughts would come after the surgery. I set a goal for myself to get my winnings to double digits. If you don’t fulfill your goals, you won’t be able to leave something in your heart. He is saying that he cannot stop because he is not satisfied with what he is doing, and that he has gone beyond what he can.
– For me, the Terunofuji champion has won eight titles despite this great injury and illness. There is a sad thought that if he had fought healthy, how many wins would he have won?
– Sometimes I don’t think about such things, but I do. What if you think, it won’t change. At the age of 23, he became a lion and won his first title. Now 32 years old is nine or ten years or 60 years old. If you think about half of the 60 years, 30 titles have already been won. But since that didn’t happen, there’s no need to think about it now. On the contrary, I have now seen what I have to see, experienced what I have to go through, and reached my destination. And that’s it.
– But you came in last October after surgery and won even though you were underprepared. So you are better than other wrestlers?
– Speaking of which, people see current wrestlers as if their quality and level has decreased. It is the same in Japan and Mongolia. It was like that in the old days, when Asa was the champion. People’s psychology has seen it in that sense from the beginning. Now is the time when the interest is gone. Apart from that, skills and physical development improve in any sport. In the past, he used to run 100 meters in 11 seconds, but now he has reached 9 seconds. Kayo the lion was said to be strong and bite apples. At that time, the hand grip of the lion Kayo was 100 kg. But now there are many wrestlers in the top ranks whose grip strength exceeds 100 kg. It is still developing to that extent.
– How do you see the sumo world today? Mongolian ozeki was born two bashos in a row. Mongolians have one champion and two lions. Which of the current youth do you trust to fight well?
– No one knows who will be the champion. No one thought I would win the title when I fell in Jonidan, not even me. While one wrestler is going to be the champion, it is not denied that a completely different wrestler will be the champion. I can’t say that it will be a champion. Whoever tries will be the champion.
– Your whole life can be called a textbook of life. This book is also an instructive book not only for sumo wrestlers, but for all young people. What did you want to say through your book?
– What I reflect on myself from my life is different from person to person. But this book is not written to make readers want to see just that. The most important thing is the principle that it is important to persevere in life with ups and downs. Now, if we both read the same book, the feeling I get will be completely different from yours. So it makes no sense to say that you should get such things from this book.
– There was a festival recently. Do you miss Mongolia at the festival? Do you watch wrestling or horse racing?
– Of course.
– You were born in Darkhan city, but which province are you native to from your parents’ side? Do you have wrestlers in your family?
– My father is from Naranbulag Sum, Uvs Province, and my mother is from Erdene Sum, Central Province. In our lineage, S. Sukhbaatar is an elephant and O. Balzhinyam is a champion.
– If you used to wrestle in national wrestling, do you think that you would have that title now?
– Not born at all. Why think about something that didn’t happen?
– Which of the national wrestlers are you close to? Who did you support and watch at this festival?
– National champions are N. Batsuur and P. Burentogs. Brother S. Munkhbat. B. Serik Zaan and L. Otgonbaatar.
– Please introduce your family. You said you had a son on November 25 and named him Temujin?
– My wife’s name is Ts. Dorjkhand. My husband completed high school and university in Japan. He named his son Temujin. I didn’t want my son to become a wrestler. But I thought that I would become a wrestler. I wanted my son to become a wrestler named after the Great King if he was interested in wrestling, and gave him the name Temujin. I wanted to be called Temujin in Japan’s national sport. Giant Temujin. He named his son Temujin in Kanji. TE of Terunofuji, tsutomu or MU of effort, JIN kanji of sumo song.
-Okay thank you. I wish you and your family all the best.