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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hakuho tries to focus attention back to ring

NAGOYA (Kyodo) On a day sumo officials wore egg on their faces after the name of disgraced ozeki Kotomitsuki appeared on the official rankings released for the upcoming Nagoya meet, yokozuna Hakuho tried to focus his attention back on the raised ring amid a widespread gambling scandal in the ancient sport.

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"It will be a difficult tournament, but I want to concentrate on preparing myself mentally and physically," Hakuho said at a news conference on Monday, the day after Kotomitsuki was fired over allegations that he gambled on professional baseball.

Hakuho, the sole wrestler to hold the top rank of yokozuna, has admitted to betting on "hanafuda," or Japanese playing card games, but has not been implicated in the baseball gambling scandal.

"All of us wrestlers have come together to do our best. Please give us a warm reception," said Hakuho, adding that his "soul has a large fracture" because several people have been suspended for their involvement in the baseball gambling scandal, which is allegedly linked to organized crime.

Hakuho has won the previous two meets with perfect 15-0 records, dominating so convincingly at the summer meet in May that his nearest challenger — rank-and-filer Aran — was three defeats behind at 12-3, while Baruto, who was making his ozeki debut, finished with a mediocre 10-5 record.

Although for a while he had considered sitting out the 15-day Nagoya meet, Hakuho said he hopes to utilize his experience to focus on the job at hand.

"I have gained all types of experience as the lone yokozuna," he said. "I intend to use all of that experience in the ring."

When asked his thoughts on the dismissal of Kotomitsuki, Hakuho said, "He was a person with great talent in the highest division of sumo. I feel pride that I was able to wrestle in the same dohyo with him."

Kotomitsuki's name appeared among five wrestlers who hold the second-highest position below Hakuho for the tournament, which will go ahead without six other top-division wrestlers suspended for their involvement in gambling.

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