Kisenosato getting shot at top rank

Kyodo

Ozeki Kisenosato will take another crack at breaking into sumo’s exalted yokozuna ranks starting Jan. 12, when the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament kicks off.

The rankings for the upcoming basho at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan, released Tuesday by the Japan Sumo Association, have Kisenosato holding down the top east ozeki spot for the seventh consecutive tournament. Kisenosato is once again up for promotion following his 13-2 record in November.

The first time Kisenosato was within reach of sumo’s top rank was last July, when he finished 11-4 after slipping on a banana peel at the start and losing three of his first seven bouts.

Harumafuji will be on the prestigious east side of the yokozuna tier for the first time since March after going 14-1 in November. His top-ranked rival and Mongolian compatriot Hakuho will be chasing his 28th career championship from the west side after being thwarted by Harumafuji in the final bout last month in Fukuoka.

Former ozeki Kotooshu, who pulled out of the Kyushu tournament with an injury, was demoted and will wrestle as a sekiwake for the first time since November 2005. However, 10 wins in January will earn him automatic reinstatement to the illustrious rank of ozeki.