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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hakuho aiming for yokozuna

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Mongolian-born ozeki Hakuho makes his debut in the prestigious east position as the Japan Sumo Association announced the rankings on Monday for the upcoming Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.

Hakuho, who won his first career title at the summer meet by beating Miyabiyama in a playoff after posting an outstanding 14-1 record, will be aiming for promotion to sumo's ultimate rank of yokozuna with a similar showing in the July 9-23 meet at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.

A promotion to grand champion after the Nagoya meet would make Hakuho the first wrestler in the modern sumo era since former grand champions Futabayama and Terukuni to achieve yokozuna status after just two basho at sumo's second-highest rank.

Meanwhile, Mongolian-born yokozuna Asashoryu, who pulled out of the summer tournament with a right elbow injury, remains the lone grand champion for the 16th consecutive tournament.

Elsewhere, Asasekiryu, another wrestler from Mongolia, sits in the east spot in his new position at komusubi while Kisenosato takes up the west position. Kisenosato, who turns 20 on July 3, became the fifth youngest wrestler to reach the "sanyaku," -- the three ranks below yokozuna.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai, who fills in the west slot, will hold sumo's second-highest rank for his 45th tournament -- second on the all-time list after the 50-basho record set by Takanohana, or the late sumo elder Futagoyama.

Kaio sits in the east position in his 36th meet at ozeki after finishing his May campaign with a 9-6 record.

Tochiazuma, who has been placed on the west side, withdrew from the summer tourney with a knee injury and will be in danger of losing his ozeki status for the seventh time.

Sekiwake Miyabiyama, who finished at 14-1 in May to set up the playoff with Hakuho, will hope to regain his ozeki rank for the first time since autumn 2001. Kotomitsuki wrestles as a sekiwake for the fifth consecutive tournament.

Estonian wrestler Baruto, who was in contention for the title and marked an impressive 11-4 record in his makuuchi debut in May, has shot up to No. 4 maegashira.



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