Kisenosato primed for yokozuna promotion bid

Kyodo

The Japan Sumo Association’s Yokozuna Deliberation Council confirmed Monday that ozeki Kisenosato will get his second shot at promotion to sumo’s highest rank at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament in January.

Hitoshi Uchiyama, who heads the JSA’s advisory council, said he expects the 27-year-old Kisenosato will likely need to capture the New Year title with at least 13 wins for a promotion to yokozuna.

“Unless he can win the championship with 13 or more wins, it’s doubtful that he can get promotion,” Uchiyama said following the advisory council’s regularly scheduled meeting at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Kisenosato posted 13 wins, the same as yokozuna Hakuho, at the Kyushu basho that concluded on Sunday. He had arguably his most impressive basho to date after beating both Hakuho and yokozuna Harumafuji, who claimed the title with a 14-1 mark.

According to Uchiyama, JSA chairman Kitanoumi has set the benchmark for Kisenosato at a championship of at least 13 wins. His performance in Kyushu was all the more impressive since he beat two undefeated yokozuna in succession.

“He was bursting with power. The fans will be expecting a lot from him,” said Uchiyama.

The JSA advisory council will probably question Kisenosato’s promotion even if he gets 14 wins but fails to capture the title.

“Unless he can win the championship the deliberation board probably won’t bring the topic up, and even if it is brought up for discussion, we will question it,” said Uchiyama, adding that a championship for Kisenosato with 12 wins or less would almost certainly not be enough for a move to the top rank.

Kisenosato is aiming to become the first Japanese-born wrestler to reach the yokozuna rank since Takanohana, who retired in January 2003.