NAGOYA – It is no longer lonely at the top for Mongolian grand champion Asashoryu.
With promoted Hakuho joining Asashoryu at yokozuna, Mongolians occupy both the east and west sides on top of the rankings for the first time in sumo history after the “banzuke” for the upcoming Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament was released Monday.
The Japan Sumo Association has given Hakuho the west slot while Asashoryu heads up the prestigious east side again for the July 8-22 meet at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.
Hakuho will compete as sumo’s 69th grand champion after he guaranteed promotion by winning his second straight title with a stunning 15-0 record at the summer meet in May.
Having wrestled as the lone yokozuna for the past 21 tournaments, Hakuho’s promotion means Asashoryu finally has some company at sumo’s top rank.
For the first time ever, foreign wrestlers outnumber Japanese wrestlers in the sport’s top four ranks of yokozuna, ozeki, sekiwake and komusubi.
Bulgarian Kotooshu wrestles at ozeki while two more Mongolian grapplers, Ama and Tokitenku, fight at sekiwake and komusubi, respectively.
Kaio and Chiyotaikai fly the flag for Japan at ozeki while sekiwake Kotomitsuki and komusubi Aminishiki are the country’s other two wrestlers in the upper echelons of the elite makuuchi division.
Kotomitsuki will be wrestling at sekiwake for a record 22nd tournament in a row but could climb one rung up sumo’s ladder to ozeki with a strong performance in Nagoya.
Kotomitsuki followed up a 10-5 showing at the spring meet with a 12-3 record in May but will likely need an even better mark this time out to finally win promotion to ozeki.
Elsewhere, Estonian man mountain Baruto returns to sumo’s top flight as a 14th-ranked maegashira along with “saltshaker” Kitazakura, Russian Hakurozan, Yoshikaze, Tosanoumi and Kaiho.