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Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009

Asashoryu returns to prime slot

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Asashoryu makes his return to the prestigious east yokozuna slot after four tournaments as the Japan Sumo Association released on Monday the rankings for the upcoming Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.

Asashoryu beat rival Hakuho in a playoff at the autumn meet in September to claim his 24th Emperor's Cup, placing him in a tie with former yokozuna Kitanoumi for third on the all-time list.

With 14 or more wins at the meet — getting under way on Nov. 15 at Fukuoka Kokusai Center — the 29-year-old Asashoryu can rewrite an 84-6 wins-loss record he established back in 2005.

"Once I get onto the raised ring I really don't want to lose. I want to try and make it two titles in a row," said Asashoryu.

Asashoryu has not competed in the Kyushu tournament the past two years.

He was banned from the 2007 meet for playing soccer in Mongolia while supposedly injured and missed last year's tourney through injury.

"I won my first title in Kyushu and have set various records here. It's a tournament full of memories, and I am really looking forward to my first appearance here in three years," he said.

Hakuho, who finished with the same 14-1 mark in September, takes his position on the west.

Veteran ozeki and Fukuoka native Kaio, who had matched Takamiyama for remaining in the makuuchi division the longest of any wrestler, moves to the top of the list by appearing for the 98th time in the elite division.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai, meanwhile, will face demotion from sumo's second-highest rank for a record 14th time after a dismal 2-9 showing with four rest days in September.

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