Sumo

Injured Kisenosato to skip seventh consecutive tournament

Kyodo

Kisenosato will pull out of the upcoming Summer Grand Sumo Tournament, extending his streak of missed events to a yokozuna-record-equaling seven meets, his stablemaster said Friday.

The 31-year-old Kisenosato, the first Japan-born wrestler in 19 years to gain promotion to sumo’s highest rank, has missed all or part of the last six meets due to a left chest muscle injury.

He is one of three wrestlers who sit atop the latest banzuke. Mongolians Kakuryu and Hakuho fill the other two yokozuna spots.

Kisenosato will equal Takanohana’s record of consecutive tournaments missed by a yokozuna since the six-event annual system was established in 1958. The decision not to compete in the May 13-27 meet at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan also puts his career in serious jeopardy.

Stablemaster Tagonoura said the decision to pull out was reached after a telephone conversation with the wrestler Friday morning. Kisenosato has been told by doctors he should refrain from intense exercise for a month, he said.

“I think he knew the withdrawal was inevitable. But (as a yokozuna) it was hard for him to admit it and say so,” Tagonoura said.

“The next basho will be a very important one. He has fought with determination in all of his tournaments. He said he will reconsider his training methods and fight for his life (in the July meet),” he said.

Kisenosato has only completed one full tournament since his promotion to yokozuna rank in January 2017.

Former yokozuna Takanohana, who missed seven full tournaments in 2001 and 2002, wished Kisenosato a speedy recovery and, speaking from experience, said rushing his comeback can only have negative consequences.

“He should take his time to heal. As long as he’s fighting he should be in top shape. The key is not to rush,” said Takanohana, who made an impressive comeback to the dohyo with a 12-3 record at the Autumn Basho in September 2002.

“His age will play a role in his (recovery). He just has to stay active,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kisenosato’s stablemate ozeki Takayasu will also miss the opening day of the summer tournament Sunday due to an injury to his left upper arm. He said he sustained the injury during training on Monday but is hoping he will be able to compete.

“I decided to play it safe because I can’t compete in my 100 percent form. I still want to join the tournament if I recover in time,” Takayasu said.