Japanese sumo wrestler Shobushi dies of COVID-19 at age 28

The Japanese Sumo Association announced its first COVID-19 death on Wednesday. (Photo by Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images)

Japanese professional sumo wrestling has lost its first athlete to COVID-19.

The Japanese Sumo Association announced that Shobushi, whose real name was Kiyotaka Suetake, died on Wednesday of multiple organ failure caused by COVID-19. He was 28.

Shobushi had been fighting the coronavirus for nearly six weeks when he died. He first developed a fever on April 4, but due to the high number of people with similar symptoms, he wasn’t able to secure medical care immediately. He continued to be turned away from local hospitals until April 8, when he was finally admitted after coughing up blood.

After an initial coronavirus test came back negative, Shobushi was transferred to a different hospital where he tested positive on April 10. He was then moved into intensive care on April 19 and never became healthy enough to leave.

In the statement, JSA chief Hakkaku expressed how devastated he and the entire sumo community are over the death of the young fighter.

Via AFP:

"We cannot find any words to say when we think about the broken hearts of his family.

"It must have been so very painful to fight the disease for over a month but, like a sumo wrestler, he persevered and endured, fighting to the very end," Hakkaku said.

"We only wish that he rests in peace now," he added, thanking medical workers for their care.

Shobushi, who made his professional debut in 2007, belonged to the Takadagawa stable and was ranked 11th in the fourth-tier Sandanme division.

Five other sumo wrestlers and one stable manager have tested positive for COVID-19 in Japan, the only country where sumo is practiced professionally. According to Japenese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, 1,000 members of the JSA will undergo COVID-19 antibody tests starting next week. It will be the first large-scale antibody testing in all of Japanese sports.

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