Georgian Tochinoshin will face his first threat to survival as an ozeki starting on Sept. 9, when the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament kicks off.
The 30-year-old failed to win eight bouts in July, his first tournament as an ozeki. He won five of his first seven matches but injured his right big toe and was forced to sit out the final eight days in Nagoya.
Placed at the bottom of the ozeki trio in the latest rankings published Monday by the Japan Sumo Association, Tochinoshin is now a kadoban ozeki and will need a minimum of eight wins over the 15 days at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan if he is to remain at sumo’s second-highest rank. Tochinoshin is the first ozeki in 18 years to be threatened with relegation in his second tournament.
The other two ozeki, Goeido and Takayasu, were in Tochinoshin’s shoes in July in Nagoya but ended with 10-5 and 9-6 records, respectively.
Sitting atop sumo’s mountain as the lead yokozuna on the prestigious east side of the rankings is Kakuryu. The 33-year-old Mongolian won back-to-back tournaments in March and May before injuring his right elbow and sitting out nine bouts in July.
Fellow Mongolian Hakuho, looking to add to the record 40th championship he won last November, sits atop the west side after missing 11 bouts in July.
Yokozuna Kisenosato, who has not competed since January, appears to be fit for the first time since March 2017. That was when he fought through chest and arm injuries to win his yokozuna debut.
“Once more I want to gather all my strength and determination,” Kisenosato said. “The key is being able to perform in peak condition. I want to do my utmost until the tournament’s final day.”
For the second straight tournament, Mitakeumi and Mongolian Ichinojo will fight as sekiwake. Mitakeumi will be spending his 10th straight tournament among the sanyaku ranks, the three tiers below yokozuna.
September’s tournament also marks the makuuchi division return of Mongolian Takanoiwa. The 28-year-old will be fighting as the east’s No. 13 megashira after a 13-2 July campaign in the second-tier juryo division. He had slipped down the rankings after suffering a concussion at the hands of former yokozuna Harumafuji during a drinking session last October.
Two other wrestlers have been promoted from the juryo division. Kotoyuki returns for the first time since March and will fight as a No. 16 maegashira. Making his first appearance in sumo’s top flight will be 23-year-old Takanosho, who will debut at No. 14.
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