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Thursday, April 25, 2002

Asashoryu looking for promotion to ozeki

Feisty Mongolian Asashoryu gets a chance to line himself up for a move up to sumo's second highest rank after earning the top sekiwake position for the upcoming Summer Grand Sumo Tournament.

The Japan Sumo Association (JSA) gave the Mongolian his highest-ever ranking Wednesday for the May 12-26 tournament after an impressive 11-4 performance last time out and a repeat performance at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan would set him up for a move to ozeki.

Grand champion Musashimaru cruised to his 10th career victory in the last basho, securing the title on the penultimate day. He retains the prestigious East position at the summit of the sumo hierarchy.

Fellow-yokozuna Takanohana is again in the West slot, but the Futagoyama grappler has missed the last five tourneys and questions remain about whether sumo's most successful active wrestler can return in time from a long-term knee injury.

The 22-time Emperor's Cup champion has started practice after surgery last summer, but has restricted himself to light workouts against junior level opponents and Takanohana has ducked questions over whether he will be fit in time for the summer tourney.

At the top of the ozeki tree is Kaio, runnerup in Osaka. He is at No. 1 in the East after finishing 12-3, with Musoyama, who went a solid 10-5 in March, lining up behind him.

In the opposite West slot at ozeki are two wrestlers who went into the last basho hoping to gain promotion to yokozuna.

Tochiazuma and Chiyotaikai both blew their bids in the first week, although New Year champion Tochiazuma recovered for a 10-5 showing and earned the top West position for Tokyo.

Chiyotaikai had a disastrous turnout, falling to Musoyama on the final day for a losing 7-8 record, meaning he now has a relegation battle on his hands. He needs eight wins to avoid the drop.

Sumo rankings for Summer Basho
Musashimaru (Y, 13-2) Yokozuna Takanohana (Y, r-15)
Kaio (O, 12-3) Ozeki Tochiazuma (O, 10-5)
Musoyama (O, 10-5) Ozeki Chiyotaikai (O, 7-8)
Asashoryu (S, 11-4) Sekiwake Kotomitsuki (S, 8-7)
Wakanosato (K, 9-6) Komusubi Tochinonada (M3, 8-7)
Aminishiki (M6, 10-5) M.1 Toki (M5, 8-7)
Takanonami (K, 6-9) 2 Tosanoumi (M1, 7-8)
Miyabiyama (M8, 9-6) 3 Takanowaka (M11, 11-4)
Daizen (M9, 9-6) 4 Kyokutenho (M2, 6-9)
Akinoshima (M4, 7-8) 5 Tamakasuga (M7, 8-7)
Kotonowaka (M2, 4-11) 6 Takamisakari (M13, 9-6)
Otsukasa (M5, 6-9) 7 Wakanoyama (M15, 9-6)
Kotoryu (J1, 12-3) 8 Kaiho (M8, 7-8)
Dejima (M7, 6-9) 9 Jumonji (J2, 11-4)
Kyokushuzan (M3, 2-13) 10 Chiyotenzan (M10, r-15)
Tokitsuumi (M4, 2-6, r-7) 11 Tamanoshima (M9, 6-9)
Hamanishiki (M11, 7-8) 12 Buyuzan (M1, 0-3, r-12)
Oikari (M12, 7-8) 13 Tochinohana (J1, 8-7)
Hokutoriki (J6, 11-4) 14 Shimotori (M12, 6-9)
Tochisakae (M10, 5-10) 15 Asanowaka (J5,10-5)
(Previous ranking and record in parentheses. Y=yokozuna, O=ozeki, S=sekiwake, K=komusubi, M=maegashira, J=juryo, r=rest)

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