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Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Council to pressure Takanohana

The Yokozuna Deliberation Council decided Monday to advise grand champion Takanohana to wrestle in the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament in September or retire from the raised ring.

The Futagoyama stable yokozuna missed his seventh straight tournament at the recently concluded Nagoya basho, still uncertain about the torn ligaments in his right knee suffered more than 14 months ago.

"If it is unavoidable that Takanohana has to sit out the next tournament and if he can't live up to his responsibilities as a yokozuna in the ring, then I hope he will make up his mind about whether to continue or retire," council chairman Tsuneo Watanabe said.

Takanohana injured the ligaments in his knee on the next to final day of the summer tourney in 2001, but still had enough to throw down yokozuna rival Musashimaru on the final day to cart home his 22nd Emperor's Cup.

Takanohana has sat out each of the seven tournaments since then as his knee, which was operated on in July 2001, has failed to respond to rehabilitation training.

Watanabe indicated before the Nagoya basho that the council would "issue a warning or recommend retirement" for the 29-year-old grand champion. With Takanohana on the sidelines, the Nagoya tournament was hit with the withdrawal of 16 wrestlers in the upper two divisions -- second only to the 19 wrestlers who missed the autumn tourney in 1945 in the postwar era.

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