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Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2001

Tochiazuma begins life at new rank of ozeki

Tochiazuma, runnerup at last month's Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament, will start a new adventure when he steps into the ring next month as his ozeki status was officially confirmed in the new rankings released Tuesday by the Japan Sumo Association.

Tochiazuma, who went 12-3 as a sekiwake in November, will be the first wrestler from the Tamanoi stable to fight at sumo's second-highest rank when the 15-day meet gets under way at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan on Jan. 13.

The 25-year-old grappler will also be the first ozeki from Tokyo since Wakanohana's promotion in the autumn of 1993.

Yokozuna Musashimaru, who lifted his first Emperor's Cup of 2001 in Kyushu, will enter the sumo arena from the prestigious east side for the third straight tourney in the absence of Takanohana.

Takanohana again heads up the west but is unlikely to return to the dohyo in January due to a knee injury that kept him out of the last three tournaments.

Kaio leads the east side for ozeki ahead of Chiyotaikai, who is facing relegation to sekiwake for the third time in his career after sitting out the Kyushu tournament following his withdrawal from the autumn meet with a foot injury.

Musoyama posted winning records in all six tournaments in 2001 and takes the top ozeki position on the west side ahead of Tochiazuma.

At sekiwake, autumn champion Kotomitsuki is joined on the east side by former ozeki Miyabiyama, who will be aiming to bounce back after missing the autumn and Kyushu basho through injury.

Miyabiyama is expected to mount a challenge in a bid to regain his former rank in January when 10 or more wins will ensure him promotion back to ozeki.

On the opposite side, rising star Asashoryu will become the first grappler from Mongolia to compete at sekiwake while compatriot Kyokutenho makes his debut as a komusubi on the west side after going 8-7 in Kyushu. Komusubi returnee Wakanosato occupies the east spot.

Hapless former ozeki Dejima continued his freefall down the rankings to No. 4 maegashira after another poor showing in November.

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The Japan Times

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