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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Ozeki Hakuho aims to reach sumo's top spot

Kyodo News

Mongolian ozeki Hakuho will hope to shake off his demons as he once again shoots for sumo's ultimate summit after the rankings were announced by the Japan Sumo Association on Wednesday ahead of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament.

Hakuho regained the prestigious east slot at sumo's second-highest rank for the first time in four meets after taking home the tournament hardware with a victory over countryman and grand champion Asashoryu in a playoff at the spring basho in March.

He finished with an impressive 13-2 record along with the yokozuna, who will appear in his 21st consecutive tournament as the sole grand champion. Hakuho will likely be given the green light for yokozuna promotion with a title win this time in Tokyo.

Chiyotaikai, meanwhile, has been an ozeki in 50 tournaments to match former ozeki Takanohana for the all-time best but faces relegation for the 10th time, tying the record of Kaio for the most times to be in danger of losing his ozeki rank.

Tochiazuma, another ozeki relegated to the west side, will likely miss the May 13-27 meet at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan due to health-related problems, while Kaio, who just passed the grade with an 8-7 mark in March, fills out the east side with Hakuho.

Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu ended with an 8-7 record last time out and takes up a west position.

Kotomitsuki will compete at sekiwake for the 21st time -- the most in the modern era of sumo. He is also second all time, appearing in his 10th consecutive tournament at sekiwake.

Meanwhile, 168-cm Toyonoshima makes his debut at komusubi on the east.

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