• Kyodo


Ozeki Kotoshogiku, who completed an impressive win in the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday, could earn promotion to yokozuna in March’s Spring tournament.

Sumo elder Isegahama, who heads the Japan Sumo Association’s judging department, indicated the ozeki, who became the first Japanese-champion in 10 years, will be recommended as a candidate for promotion to sumo’s highest rank at the next basho in Osaka.

Although Kotoshogiku’s championship included wins over all three yokozuna, he has won 10 or more bouts in a 15-day basho just eight times in 26 tries. He has also put his ozeki rank in jeopardy five times with losing records — only to avoid relegation each time by winning eight or more matches in the following basho.

In November’s tournament in Kyushu, Kotoshogiku withdrew with an injury after locking up the mandatory winning record with his eighth win.

“Until now, his results have not been very consistent,” Isegahama said. “If he achieves a high-quality championship, it is only natural that people will bring that (yokozuna promotion) up.”

New JSA chairman Hakkaku said, “It will depend on his quality at the next basho. I hope he aspires to that and gives his best effort.”

Kotoshogiku clinched the Emperor’s Cup by defeating Goeido on Sunday at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

“I just focused on the things I had to (at this basho) and was more concerned about execution rather than wins and losses,” Kotoshogiku said. “I’m glad I’ve managed to produce a good result.

“My parents acted as a wall when I was having tough time, propping me up, and I am filled with gratitude toward them.”

The previous homegrown champion Tochiazuma, currently stable master Tamanoi, said, “I was made to think again how long 10 years are. I was happy to have my name keep getting mentioned but wanted someone else to win it sooner rather than later.”

One of the giants of his day as yokozuna Chiyonofuji, currently elder Kokonoe, said it was overdue, but said it wouldn’t signal a change.

“We’ve waited a long time. (But) the ones giving the most in practice are the Mongolians, so don’t expect things to change much.”

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