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Hakuho pulls out of basho due to injuries

Kyodo

Yokozuna Hakuho said Thursday he will sit out the entire Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament starting Sunday as he is still nursing injuries.

This is the fourth time for Hakuho to miss all or part of a tourney and the first since last year’s Autumn Basho, when he withdrew on the third day. It will be the first time he misses an entire tournament since the 2006 Kyushu tourney, when he was an ozeki.

“I’m sorry to the fans,” Hakuho said. “I want work on healing in time for the autumn regional tour and the Kyushu Basho (in November).”

Hakuho, who headed into the Nagoya tourney in July seeking a record-extending 38th championship, settled for a 10-5 record after he hurt his right big toe. He also experienced recurring pain in his left knee during the summer regional tour through the end of August.

“I had muscle spasms from my right big toe up to my calf (after the rankings were announced in late August),” the 31-year-old said. “It was a kind of pain I had not felt before. I had pain in my left knee during the tour but had it strapped.

“Injuries come with pain other people can’t realize.”

Hakuho said his duty as a yokozuna had him searching for some slim chance of making the tourney, all the while feeling that age might be taking its toll.

“I wanted to meet expectations,” he said. “When all wrestlers were training hard ahead of the tourney, I felt I had to recuperate. You need to abandon something or sacrifice something if you are to battle on, and I may have reached that point this time.

“I’ve been doing what I thought I’d need (to maintain fitness), but there are things I feel are becoming different compared to when I was in my 20s.”

Fans expected Hakuho to be the prime obstacle in ozeki Kisenosato’s bid to become first Japanese-born yokozuna since 1998 — with an Autumn Basho title likely required for his promotion. But Hakuho is wishing his long-time rival good luck.

“Things like these can’t be helped,” he said. “I’d like him to grab the chance. I’m not fighting him this time and would like to join in supporting him (for promotion).”

Hakuho remains three wins shy of becoming the third sumo wrestler in history with 1,000 victories.