Sumo

Hakuho to kick off bid for history on east side

Kyodo

Record-chasing Mongolian powerhouse Hakuho retained the prestigious east yokozuna slot for the sixth meet in a row as the Japan Sumo Association released the rankings Wednesday for the upcoming New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

Hakuho will be aiming to surpass yokozuna legend Taiho and become the most successful yokozuna in sumo history with a 33rd career title at the Jan. 11-25 basho at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.

The 29-year-old proved once again to be sumo’s man of steel as he overpowered fellow yokozuna Kakuryu en route to matching Taiho’s all-time record of 32 Emperor’s Cups on the final day of the Kyushu meet in November.

Hakuho debuted in the elite makuuchi class in May 2004 and achieved the sport’s highest rank in July 2007. He highlighted his career with a 63-bout winning streak in 2010 — the second longest in sumo history.

Harumafuji and Kauryu, the other two yokozuna, are on the east and west side, respectively for the New Year meet.

Kisenosato is on the east ozeki side while on the west are Kotoshogiku and Goeido, who will both need winning records to avoid demotion from sumo’s second highest rank.

Kotoshogiku struggled in front of his home fans in Fukuoka last time out with a 6-9 record, while Goedio went 5-10.

Bulgarian-born Aoiyama is on the east at sekiwakwe and Mongolian man mountain Ichinojo stays on the west.

Takayasu, who defeated two yokozuna and one ozeki at the last meet, returns to the fourth-highest rank of komusubi for the first time in eight basho.

There are no brand-new entries in the sanyaku ranks — the three ranks below yokozuna — and no wrestlers coming up to the makuuchi division for the first time.