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AMERICAN-BORN FORMER SUMO CHAMPION AKEBONO DIES AGED 54

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American-Born former sumo champion Akebono dies aged 54

FILE PHOTO: Akebono, a native of Waimanalo, Hawaii and former Sumo Grand Champion in Japan, attends the opening ceremony of the K-1 World Grand Prix in Honolulu, July 29, 2005. REUTERS/Lucy Pemoni LP/PN

FILE PHOTO: Akebono, a native of Waimanalo, Hawaii and former Sumo Grand Champion in Japan, attends the opening ceremony of the K-1 World Grand Prix in Honolulu, July 29, 2005. REUTERS/Lucy Pemoni LP/PN© Thomson Reuters

TOKYO (Reuters) - Akebono, an American-born sumo wrestler who became the first non-Japanese yokozuna grand champion, died of heart failure this month, the U.S. Forces in Japan said on Thursday. He was 54.

Born Chad George Ha'aheo Rowan in Hawaii, Akebono entered the sumo world in 1988 and rose to its highest yokozuna rank in January 1993. He later became a Japanese citizen.

As the 64th yokozuna, Akebono won 11 championships while garnering celebrity status as a talent on Japanese TV shows. He became a professional K-1 wrestling fighter after retiring from sumo in 2001.

Akebono is survived by his wife, daughter and two sons. 

(Reporting by Mariko Katsumura; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim)  Story by Reuters: 

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