Takanoiwa takes first steps toward return


Takanoiwa, the wrestler who was injured in a beating by former yokozuna Harumafuji last fall, took part in training Thursday and appeared ready to let fate determine his participation in the upcoming Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

In his first public appearance since the scandal that led to fellow Mongolian Harumafuji’s retirement surfaced in November, Takanoiwa did not comment on his chances of competing in the March 11-25 tournament at Edion Arena Osaka.

But the 28-year-old from Ulan Bator did say he has taken a step forward in his recovery from the assault and showed signs of optimism for his comeback to the raised ring when speaking with reporters outside his Takanohana stable in Kyoto.

“Although only very gradually, I’ve been able to get back to training,” Takanoiwa said.

“I wouldn’t say I’m feeling comfortable (with my body movements) because I haven’t wrestled yet. I’m just focusing on doing my best (to prepare for the spring meet),” he said.

The match-making committee will meet on March 9 to set the bout schedule for the 15-day tournament, when Takanoiwa’s participation will also be discussed.

Takanoiwa said he had been hospitalized in Tokyo, where he began physical rehab, and had only resumed workouts since he arrived in Kyoto on Monday.

On Thursday, he took part in basic training exercises including suriashi (feet-sliding) and teppo (wooden-pillar slamming).

“It will take a bit more time,” he said, when asked if he felt ready to take part in a practice match against another wrestler.

After the alcohol-fueled assault in Tottori on Oct. 25, Takanoiwa was diagnosed with a concussion and a skull-base fracture, among other injuries.

He missed the entire Kyushu tournament in November and the New Year meet in January, and would have been demoted to the lower makushita rank had it not been for the special exemption given by the Japan Sumo Association.

He is now ranked 12th in the juryo division, the second-highest division below makuuchi and above makushita.