Kisenosato ready for promotion bid

Kyodo

The Japan Sumo Association announced Monday its rankings for the upcoming Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament, placing ozeki Kisenosato, who will take his first crack at promotion to yokozuna, on the prestigious east wing for the fourth tournament in a row.

Kisenosato, who turns 27 on July 3, had an outstanding summer basho, remaining unbeaten until the penultimate day, when he fell out of his dead heat with yokozuna Hakuho, the eventual champion. Kisenosato’s other defeat was on the final day, to rival ozeki Kotoshogiku.

The two consecutive defeats notwithstanding, the JSA yokozuna deliberation council deemed him worthy of a shot at sumo’s highest rank for the tournament kicking off July 7 at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium — though he is expected to face a rigorous test that might require him to win the title, or at least come very close.

Hakuho, who has now won back-to-back titles with perfect 15-0 records, will again occupy his throne on the east as he bids to become the first foreign-born wrestler with 26 career championships.

Fellow Mongolian yokozuna Harumafuji, who had another pedestrian showing with just 11 wins in May, takes up his position on the west. Ozeki Kakuryu fills out the east, while Kotoshogiku and Bulgarian Kotooshu are the two at sumo’s second highest rank on the west.

Myogiryu has made a comeback to sekiwake for the first time in four meets and will sit on the east side, while Goeido should consider himself lucky after a lateral move to the west wing of sumo’s third highest rank, despite finishing with a subpar 7-8 mark at the summer meet.

Shohozan has bounced back at komusubi for bullying rights in the east locker room, while Tokitenku also had a redux on the west wing, wrestling in the sport’s top-four ranks for the first time in 35 tournaments.

A ghost from the past has found his way back onto the raised ring, namely Chinese national Sokokurai, who was fired due to accusations of bout-rigging in 2011 but reinstated in April this year after a court ruled his dismissal invalid.

Sokokurai will sit on the west wing as a No. 15 maegashira, the same rank he held before his expulsion. This will be his first major tournament since the 2011 New Year meet.

Tokushoryu is the only wrestler debuting in the makuuchi division. Kotoyuki, Tamawashi and Tamaasuka have returned from the second-tier juryo division, which will feature the first wrestler from Africa, Egyptian-born Osunaarashi.