The promotion of Harumafuji, who was formerly known as Ama, to ozeki has brought the number of foreign wrestlers in sumo’s top two ranks to four for the first time ever as the Japan Sumo Association on Wednesday released the rankings for the upcoming New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
Harumafuji will sit in the prestigious east ozeki position alongside Kotomitsuki and Bulgarian Kotooshu with Chiyotaikai and Kaio occupying the west one rung below Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho and Asashoryu.
Asashoryu’s career will be on the line after he pulled out of the last three tournaments citing injuries.
Hakuho has retained the east slot for the Jan. 11-25 tournament at Ryogoku Kokugikan in his bid to win a fourth straight meet for the first time in his career. He has won three straight titles twice.
Hakuho defeated Ama, who changed his ring name to Harumafuji, in a championship playoff at the Kyushu meet in November after the two Mongolians tied with 13-2 win-loss records.
On the west, Asashoryu, who missed the entire Kyushu meet and pulled out midway in the previous two basho before that, will try to get his roller coaster career back on track.
Injury-prone ozeki Kaio will tie Chiyotaikai as he is in danger of demotion for a record 12th time and once again faces the possibility of retirement.
Kaio will also be wrestling at ozeki in his 51st meet, breaking a tie with Takanohana for second on the all-time list.
Chiyotaikai will extend his record at ozeki to 60.
Yamamotoyama makes his debut in the top flight as a No. 15 maegashira after only 12 meets.
The 252-kg wrestler is one meet shy of the record pace set by Kotooshu and Aran, the Russian who is fighting as a No. 10 maegashira this time out.
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