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Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011

New ozeki Kotoshogiku ready for center stage

Kyodo

Kotoshogiku will take center stage in front of his home fans at the upcoming Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament after winning promotion to sumo's second-highest rank of ozeki.

Kotoshogiku, named on the ozeki west side of the rankings released Monday by the Japan Sumo Association for the Nov. 13-27 event at Fukuoka Kokusai Center, is the first Japanese wrestler to assume the ozeki rank in four years.

And the 27-year-old is hoping he can become as popular as the wrestler whose void he will be filling after another Fukuoka favorite, Kaio, retired just days after he had moved to the top of the all-time career wins list at the Nagoya meet in July.

"I want to deliver results on the dohyo (raised ring) and be an ozeki that is loved by everyone like Kaio was," said Kotoshogiku after he was formally promoted last month.

Former ozeki Kotomitsuki was the last Japanese wrestler to gain promotion to the rank after the 2007 Nagoya basho.

Kotoshogiku won 12 bouts at the autumn basho in September, meeting the JSA's loosely defined guidelines of posting a total of 33 wins over three consecutive tournaments.

The promotion provided a welcome lift for a sport that has had its reputation repeatedly tarnished by a slew of scandals, the most recent a match-fixing racket that broke earlier this year and plunged sumo into its worst-ever crisis.

Kotomitsuki was banned for life from the national sport for betting on pro baseball in an illegal gambling racket last summer.

Hakuho, who won his 20th Emperor's Cup at the autumn basho, remains the lone yokozuna in the top makuuchi division and will be the favorite to win the last tournament of 2011.

At ozeki, Bulgarian pin-up Kotooshu will be battling with his rank on the line for the fourth time after withdrawing during the last meet.



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