Sumo

Hakuho pulls out of Fukuoka meet

Kyodo

Yokozuna Hakuho, who underwent surgery on his right ankle and right knee last month, will withdraw from the upcoming Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament, his stablemaster Miyagino said Thursday.

Fellow Mongolian yokozuna Kakuryu also announced his withdrawal, leaving Kisenosato the only top-ranked wrestler in the year’s final basho.

The 33-year-old Hakuho lacked sufficient preparation for the tournament, which starts on Sunday at Fukuoka Kokusai Center, after he went under the knife in mid-October, leaving him always unlikely to compete in the year’s final basho.

“He hasn’t recovered yet (from the knee surgery). He says it’s still painful,” Miyagino said. “I’m sure he wanted to compete in the last Kyushu meet of the (current) Heisei Era. It can’t be helped. He’s getting better.”

After taking part in a morning training session Thursday, Hakuho did not talk to reporters.

It will be the 10th time in Hakuho’s career that he has missed part or all of a basho, and first since he pulled out on the fourth day of the 15-day Nagoya tourney in July. He has only gone the full distance in two of the six grand tournaments this year.

Hakuho had a procedure to remove bone fragments from his knee and fluid from his ankle joint shortly after he experienced pain and left the 24-day autumn regional tour on Oct. 12.

Miyagino revealed that Hakuho can barely execute a shiko, a basic sumo warmup movement, and will remain in Fukuoka for rehab.

But he also said he is optimistic for Hakuho’s comeback in the New Year meet in January and expects him to join the promotional tour that starts Dec. 2.

With his likely withdrawal from all 15 days of the Kyushu tourney, Hakuho will finish the year with 31 wins, eight losses and 51 rest days.

His only overall victory this year came at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament in September, when he secured his record-extending 41st championship with a perfect 15-0 record.

If he finishes 2018 with only one tournament victory, Hakuho will end a run of 11 straight years with at least two titles.