Japanese scarce in sumo’s top ranks

Kyodo

Sumo’s top two ranks of yokozuna and ozeki will be without any Japanese wrestlers at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament as the Japan Sumo Association on Monday released the banzuke rankings for the Sept. 11-25 event at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Veteran Kaio brought the curtain down on an illustrious but injury-plagued career at the Nagoya meet in July, just days after the Japanese ozeki had moved to the top of the all-time career wins list.

His retirement means no Japanese will occupy the top two ranks for the first time since the 1993 New Year basho. Americans Akebono and Konishiki reigned at ozeki at that time when there was no yokozuna.

Kaio was the last remaining Japanese wrestler at sumo’s second-highest rank after Kotomitsuki was banned for life for betting on pro baseball in an illegal gambling racket last summer.

However, Kotoshogiku, who has compiled 21 wins over the last two tournaments, has the chance to fill the void left by Kaio with another strong performance in Tokyo. Under the JSA’s loose guidelines, sekiwake wrestlers generally need to post at least 33 wins over three consecutive basho to be considered for a move up to ozeki.

Mongolian Hakuho remains on the prestigious east side as the lone yokozuna in sumo’s elite makuuchi division, but it is compatriot Harumafuji that will be under the spotlight as he aims for promotion to sumo’s highest rank after winning the Nagoya title.