At 30 years of age, veteran ozeki Kisenosato has already carried a lifetime's worth of expectations on his shoulders, and on Saturday, he finally met them.

After repeatedly coming up just short of his first career grand tournament, Kisenosato used a tricky tachiai to dispose of huge Mongolian maegashira Ichinojo to improve to 13-1 in the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

Kisenosato's failure to grasp the brass ring was often attributable to the strength of yokozuna Hakuho. But this time, entering the penultimate day at trailing by one win, the Mongolian master fell to his second loss as he was defeated by in-form countryman Takanoiwa.

Eager for sumo to have a Japanese grand champion in a sport dominated by Mongolians, Hakuho's loss clinched a championship for Kisenosato and whipped the crowd at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan into a frenzy.

The second youngest wrestler to make his debut in both the second-tier juryo division and the elite makuuchi division, Kisenosato raised fans' hopes further as a 22-year-old in 2009 by going 13-2 at the Summer tourney. Yet, every time he has officially been a candidate for promotion to yokozuna, Kisenosato has faltered, and last year led all wrestlers in upper-division wins without winning one grand tournament -- a feat achieved for the first time in history.

"He has blossomed at last," Japan Sumo Association Chairman Hakkaku said. "I guess nobody has won a championship recently after going through this much hardship."

Sumo elder Nishiiwa, the former sekiwake Wakanosato, said that being the only ozeki without a grand tournament title sparked his former stablemate.

"He's come this far step by step," Nishiiwa said. "And at long last he's arrived. To have the likes of Goeido and Kotoshogiku win championships before him must have frustrated him and lit a fire inside. Even having said that, he isn't finished."