Yokozuna Harumafuji status in doubt ahead of New Year basho

Kyodo

Yokozuna Harumafuji could likely miss the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament due to a niggling injury to his left ankle, his stablemaster Isegahama hinted Thursday.

“This is serious,” said Isegahama. “If he risks fighting and tears the ligament there’ll be no recourse. Most importantly, I have to think about (his health).”

Harumafuji, who won his sixth career title at the Kyushu basho in November, aggravated an old wound when he hurt his left ankle during training near the end of December.

The Mongolian-born grand champion took part in the annual yokozuna dohyo-iri ceremony at Meiji Jingu Shrine on Wednesday, but he skipped the morning sparring the following day and only did some light stretches and dumbbell work.

Isegahama appears likely to make a decision by Friday morning, ahead of the meeting to determine the bouts for the first two days of the 15-day tournament that begins Sunday at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Should Harumafuji pull out, it will be the first time for a yokozuna to miss a major tournament since Asashoryu did so at the 2008 Kyushu basho.