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Original Issue

Of Myths and Men

The larger-than-average athletes who dominate the sport of sumo wrestling have generated some larger-than-life legends

• Akashi Shiganosuke, who wrestled in the 1600s and was the first to attain the exalted rank of yokozuna (grand champion), was promoted posthumously. He was said to be eight feet tall.

• Hawaiian-born Konishiki (above, right) is thought to be the heaviest sumotori (wrestler) ever, topping out at 630 pounds late in a 15-year career that ended in 1997. He was a reedy 380 when a talent scout recruited him off a Honolulu beach.

• Takamisugi, who was a fixture in the 1980s and '90s, reportedly once downed 65 bowls of chanko-nabe stew--the caloric staple of the sumo diet--in a single sitting. That's 29 pounds of beef. He stopped not because he was stuffed but because his jaws got tired.

• The Joe DiMaggio of sumo was a yokozuna named Futabayama, whose streak of 69 straight wins from 1936 to '39 still stands. Only after retiring did Joltin' Fu reveal he was blind in one eye.