National

Sumo elder Takanohana fails to regain director seat on JSA board

Kyodo

Popular sumo elder and former yokozuna Takanohana failed to regain his spot on the Japan Sumo Association board of directors Friday. It was the first time a director has been dismissed before the end of his term.

Takanohana, 45, was demoted on Jan. 4 over his handling of last year’s assault scandal that led to the retirement of grand champion Harumafuji. The stablemaster was one of 11 candidates vying to fill the 10 seats on the JSA’s board of directors in Friday’s election.

He had won four straight election bids before being disciplined and demoted in January. This time, Takanohana received just two votes in the ballot of all 101 sumo elders at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan stadium.

The punishment reflected his failure to promptly report the October incident in which Takanoiwa, a wrestler from his stable, was beaten by fellow Mongolian Harumafuji in a drinking session at a bar during a regional tour.

Takanohana had also been criticized for refusing to cooperate with the internal investigation until he made himself available to the JSA crisis management panel on Dec. 25, despite reporting the case to the police.

The stablemaster, whose real name is Koji Hanada, is known for boosting sumo’s popularity during a wrestling career spent alongside elder brother Wakanohana.

The pair were active from the 1990s through the early 2000s.

Takanohana earned 22 tournament victories, sixth on the all-time list, while setting records including the youngest wrestler to win a top-division title at 19 years and five months. He retired in 2003.

He was first elected to the JSA’s board in 2010 but lost to Chairman Hakkaku in the election to pick sumo’s new head in March 2016.

Takanohana is considered an advocate of reform in a sport that has been rocked by allegations of match-fixing and hazing.