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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Asashoryu shooting for fourth straight title

Mongolian grand champion Asashoryu will be aiming for his fourth straight Emperor's Cup atop the prestigious east position as the Japan Sumo Association announced the rankings Monday for the upcoming Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.

Asashoryu disposed of upstart Hokutoriki in a playoff at the summer meet in May after both wrestlers drew even with 13 victories and will be looking to maintain his reputation as the most feared man in sumo when the meet gets under way on July 4.

Meanwhile with his impressive showing, Hokutoriki was promoted to the position of sekiwake for the first time and will occupy the west slot at the 15-day tourney at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.

The elite makuuchi division has been left with three ozeki for the first time in 16 meets, none of whom appear strong enough to stop a relentless yokozuna.

Kaio, who struggled to mark 10 wins in May, is in the east along with relegation-threatened Musoyama while Chiyotaikai, who went 9-6 in Tokyo, fills in the west.

Both Kaio and Chiyotaikai saw their hopes of yokozuna promotion flushed down the drain with their unimpressive results.

Wakanosato, who has retained his rank in the "sanyaku" -- the three ranks below yokozuna -- for the 16 consecutive basho, returns to the sekiwake east position.

But Tochiazuma, who fell from grace and stature after missing the summer tourney through injury, has been relegated to the west sekiwake spot and will need to post a convincing mark of 10 or more wins in Nagoya if he hopes to regain his ozeki status.

Elsewhere, Kotomitsuki got the nod to switch zip codes from west to the east in the komusubi slot after a passable 9-6 while Tamanoshima, who is back at sanyaku after three meets takes up the west.

Hakuho, a 19-year-old Mongolian, was promoted to No. 8 maegashira after winning 12 of his bouts in Tokyo while countryman Tokitenku joins the top flight after just 13 basho, equaling Asashoryu's record-setting pace.

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