On the ring, stood a tall, hefty, bare-bodied, Japanese sumo wrestler in traditional loincloth, bowing and smiling - the crowd applauded Asanoyama’s victory.
In the audience, was a special guest from the US - none other than President Donald Trump.
Trump has been a longtime fan and former promoter of a Western wrestling tradition - the WWE. Also, he is the first US President to have received a ‘Stone Cold stunner’. Today he made history in wrestling lore once again. As Trump entered the arena, he bowed at the young Rikishi (wrestler) celebrating his first tournament victory and handed him his prize.
On Sunday, the 25 year old Rikishi Asanoyama Hideki became the first ever recipient of the ‘United States President’s Cup’: awarded by President Trump during his state visit to Japan.
Sumo authorities broke tradition and provided armchairs near the ring for the President, first lady Melania, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, and his wife Akie. The norm is for spectators to watch the match sitting cross-legged on a zabuton floor cushion.
Also, the group wasn’t obliged to watch the entire ceremony - which the rigid, Samurai-era protocol dictates.
President Trump did observe tradition by wearing slippers on the ring - customary in Japan, where shoes are forbidden at homes and places of worship. This extends to sumo, which has its roots in Shinto - the national religion of Japan.
The first ladies of the U.S. and Japan were not permitted on the ring, since women are barred from entering - a ban that extends even to female medics at matches.
Trump congratulated the 390 pound victor for his “outstanding achievement”. The wrestler later said that he was “overjoyed” to have received Trump’s enormous eagle-topped trophy, which was 54 inches tall and weighed 70 lbs.
The Japanese Sumo association (JSA) instituted an unprecedented level of security for the occasion. According to Japan Times, even visits by members of the Royal family are not granted this level of security.
Japanese media outlets are optimistic that Trump’s historic gesture will boost viewership for the 1500 year old sport as it made headlines across the island nation.
The JSA declared that the trophy will be displayed at the Sumo Museum in Ryogoku Kokugikan.