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Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Takanohana talking comeback in Nagoya

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Yokozuna Takanohana met with the press Monday to say he was looking forward to wrestling in the upcoming Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.

The Futagoyama stable grand champion, who has missed an entire year of wrestling, however, appeared to be tentative and had observers thinking that his right knee might have weakened again.

"I feel like the injury is getting better every day and I have more confidence than I did before the summer tourney," Takanohana told reporters. "I'm doing my best so the knee heals completely and I can wrestle at the top level."

During the press conference, the expression of the grand champion lacked conviction and optimism, leading some members of the press to speculate that the knee, injured 13 months ago, had taken a turn for the worse.

"If (Takanohana) is unable to wrestle there's nothing we can do about that," said Japan Sumo Association chairman Kitanoumi.

Takanohana had shown an eagerness to wrestle in the summer tourney in May, but was persuaded by sumo elder Futagoyama to sit out one more basho.

Aiming to be ready for the Nagoya tournament, Takanohana has been practicing hard and one month ago went 32 bouts in practice with the higher-ranked veterans in the Futagoyama stable and emerged with a 29-3 record.

Takanohana, however, has reportedly been taking it easier since then and has been content to remain in Tokyo and practice at his own pace.

If he chooses to sit out the Nagoya Basho, which opens July 7 at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, it would be his unprecedented seventh straight and 15th overall.

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