January 27, 2017 / 3:17 PM / 2 years ago

Fans cheer Japan's new sumo champion at stomping ceremony

Newly promoted sumo grand champion, or yokozuna, Kisenosato (R), wearing a ceremonial belly band, performs a sacred ring-entering ritual at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo Japan, January 27, 2017. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) - Sumo wrestler Kisenosato performed a foot-stomping ceremony on Friday to cheers from hundreds of fans who flocked to a Tokyo shrine to honor the first Japanese born and bred sumo grand champion in nearly two decades.

Kisenosato, 30, was promoted on Wednesday to grand champion, known as yokozuna, ending the domination of the ancient sport’s top ranks by foreign-born wrestlers.

“It’s been 19 years since there’s been a Japanese yokozuna, so it’s great,” sumo fan Fumihiko Kobayashi told Reuters Television.

The traditional ring-entering ceremony was held at Tokyo’s famed Meiji Shrine where Kisenosato received the yokozuna belt marking his status as Japan’s sumo grand champion.

Sumo, which features giant wrestlers clad only in loincloths, has seen such an influx of foreign grapplers over the last 50 years that prior to this week, all three grand champions were Mongolian.

Hawaiian-born Americans have also held the rank.

Reporting by Reuters Television; Editing by Darren Schuettler

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