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Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007

Asashoryu calls off holiday trip home

Kyodo News

Yokozuna Asashoryu said Tuesday he will not return to his native Mongolia during the yearend and New Year's holidays ahead of his scheduled comeback in a tournament next month.

"I won't go home. I cannot meet them (my children)," he told reporters. "Why is everybody making a fuss?"

The yokozuna made the remarks after being persuaded by his stablemaster Takasago after a Monday morning practice session not to leave Japan.

"He spoke of his wish but he understood my opinion," Takasago separately said.

Asashoryu said Monday he was hoping to fly back to Mongolia on Friday and to return to Japan on Jan. 2 in time for his stable's first practice session of the new year the following day. But he indicated it was possible he would stay in Japan if his plan met with opposition.

"I promised my children (who are in Mongolia) that I would come back and I'll try as hard as possible in training once I return here in the new year in the runup to the tournament," Asashoryu said Monday.

Takasago and Japan Sumo Association officials have been keeping a close eye on the yokozuna after his two-tournament suspension ended late last month.

Asashoryu had to sit out the autumn meet in September and the Kyushu tourney in November due to the suspension. The JSA imposed the punishment on Asashoryu after he missed a regional summer tour claiming injury but was seen playing soccer in Mongolia.

Earlier this month, Asashoryu was diagnosed with an inflamed right foot and was told by the doctor that the injury would require about four weeks to heal, clouding his comeback plan for the New Year tournament opening on Jan. 13. However, he has made it clear that he will wrestle in the New Year meet.

Last week, JSA Chairman Kitanoumi voiced his opposition to Asashoryu returning to Mongolia during the upcoming holidays, saying the grand champion should focus on his preparations for his comeback by staying in Japan.

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