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Thursday, Dec. 22, 2005

Kotooshu ready for ozeki debut

Bulgarian giant Kotooshu shoved grand champion Asashoryu's pre-tournament comments back down his throat when he pulled of a revenge victory over the feisty Mongolian at the Fukuoka Grand Sumo Tournament last month.

News photo
Ozeki Kotooshu is all smiles as he stands next to a shishimai head in Tokyo, the day the sumo rankings for the January tournament were released.

Asashoryu claimed Kotooshu was far from the finished product and "still had a long way to go." He might choose his words more carefully before the New Year tourney kicking off in Tokyo next month.

The Japan Sumo Association released the rankings for the Jan. 8-22 meet Wednesday with the silent but deadly Kotooshu sitting pretty on the west side for ozeki after reaching sumo's second-highest rank at lightning pace.

And recent performances suggest it is only a matter of time before he joins Asashoryu at the top of the sumo ladder.

Kotooshu's promotion made him the first European to reach ozeki and his ascent comes after just 19 meets, the fastest since 1958, when sumo switched to the current system of six tournaments a year.

Kotooshu, who posted an 11-4 record in Kyushu, is regarded by many as the biggest threat to record-breaking Asashoryu's dominance on the raised ring.

However, Asashoryu, who captured an unprecedented seventh consecutive title in Kyushu, occupies the prestigious east slot as the lone yokozuna for the 13th basho in a row and starts as the hot favorite again in the 15-day meet at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Ozeki Kaio sits alongside Kotooshu on the west side with Chiyotaikai heading up the east. Tochiazuma, meanwhile, will be looking to stave of relegation for a sixth time after the ozeki pulled out early in the Kyushu meet after aggravating a rib injury.

Elsewhere, Asashoryu's compatriot Hakuho joins Kotomitsuki at sekiwake, returning to sumo's third rank for the first time in three meets.

Another Mongolian, Tokitenku, reaches his highest-ever rank of No.1 maegashira after going 10-5 last time out and winning his first Technique Prize in the process.

Former amateur grand champion Yoshikaze is the only newcomer to the elite makuuchi division, while Toyozakura, Tochisakae, Tokitsuumi and Kitazakura all return to the top flight.

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