Kakuryu relaxed ahead of yokozuna promotion bid

Kyodo

Ozeki Kakuryu said Monday he hopes to stick to his normal preparations ahead of next month’s Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, where a victory should see him promoted to sumo’s highest rank of yokozuna.

“It doesn’t really do any good to think about it now,” he told a news conference in Osaka. “I’m going to prepare as I usually do. If I’m able to go into the ring relaxed, that will be best.”

Kakuryu lost his first bout in January’s New Year basho, but reeled off 14 straight wins, including a clutch final-day victory over yokozuna Hakuho that forced a championship playoff. Hakuho, however, won the playoff between the two Mongolians to earn his 28th career championship.

Kakuryu, who was aiming for his first career title, hasn’t forgotten the frustration.

“I am going to do my best, remembering how that felt,” he said. “This (yokozuna promotion) is not that easy. I want to consider this, too, as a learning experience, and then go all-out without being burdened by unnecessary thoughts.”

A day after the completion of the New Year basho, the Japan Sumo Association’s Yokozuna Deliberation Council said that Kakuryu will need to win at least 13 matches next month and hoist the winner’s trophy to be admitted to sumo’s most exalted rank. The 15-day spring tourney begins on March 9.

Kakuryu’s stablemaster Izutsu, however, said winning — rather than rank — should be the priority.

“Rather than earning promotion to yokozuna, I want him to win a championship as soon as he can,” Izutsu said.