Konishiki: 300 pounds lighter, but bigger than ever

Salevaa Atisinoe
Salevaa Atisinoe

By Howard Dashefsky - bio | email

(KHNL) - He was born Salevaa Atisinoe. Eighteen years later the Nanakuli native moved to Tokyo and begin a career in sumo. A rewarding career he continues to benefit from, and pay for, physically.

Today he is a gentle man, with a soft voice and an easygoing demeanor. But in the ring, he was nothing short of a giant. feared by opponents and revered by his fans. And in 1987, he became the first foreigner ever to achieve the rank of Ozeki or Champion.

For 10 more years he competed. winning three championships, while amassing more than 730 wins. But at more than 620 pounds at his peak, the wins and losses took their toll.

"The funny thing about it is maybe a lot of athletes experiences they're so focused in your career pain ain't a matter" said Konishiki. "You just have to overcome. i guess you so focused, your mind overtakes the pain."

In 1997, the sumo star said goodbye to the sport in a traditional retirement ceremony that gripped a nation, and set the course for his second career in show business an music.

A naturalized Japanese citizen, Konishiki continues to live in Japan where he recently released his 10th album. But it's his work with children he's most proud of.

"The kids show i do is like a sesame street kind of stuff" said Konishiki. "We break out the language and we do skits and we do music to it, we do dance to it and I'm this big sesame street character, I'm supposed to be this big from the volcano. so the character is actually from

But while the show is Konishiki's passion, getting healthy is his priority.

"Three years ago I finally put my feet down and told myself, its time for me to just take care of myself."

Since undergoing gastric bypass surgery last year, he has lost more than 300 pounds, and gained a better understanding of his body.

"I still have injuries, i have bad knees no ligaments and i'm finding out now how bad I've beaten up myself over the years, now that I'm small enough to get into the MRI."

And even though he has a way to go, the sumo star, who is now half the man he once was, is in many way, bigger than ever.

"it's from all the hard work put in back in the day and it's gratifying to see the love and support so many years later."

Even though Konishiki never reached Sumo's highest rank of Yokozuna or Grand Champion, something Hawaii wrestlers Musashimaru and Akebono achieved after him, Konishiki's fan still hail him as the ultimate champion.

They also know he was the one who paved the way for others to follow.

"If i done it again i wouldn't do it any differently, you know."