FUKUOKA - Grand champion Kisenosato withdrew from the ongoing Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament Thursday citing a knee injury, the latest in a string of setbacks that will again raise the prospect of his retirement.
The news comes a day after Kisenosato, the first Japan-born wrestler in 19 years to gain promotion to sumo’s highest rank, suffered his fourth consecutive defeat at the 15-day meet at Fukuoka Kokusai Center where he was the sole yokozuna competing.
“I entered the meet in good condition but sustained a new injury (to my right knee) on opening day,” said Kisenosato, who has struggled to shake nagging injuries to his knee, ankle, and chest and arm muscles.
“I went ahead and competed from the second day onwards but I was in far from my best form, thus the withdrawal. I’m very sorry. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t live up to the expectations,” he said.
After missing eight straight meets, the most ever by a yokozuna, Kisenosato finished with a 10-5 record at the September tournament to quiet fans who had been calling for him to bring his career to an end.
In Fukuoka, Kisenosato became the first yokozuna in 87 years to lose four bouts in a row to open a basho. Miyagiyama, who got off to a dismal 0-4 start in January 1931, was the most recent before him.
Speaking to reporters after his announcement to pull out, Kisenosato repeatedly apologized for not being able to last the full 15 days, while also speaking positively about his next opportunity to compete on the raised ring.
“I do want to put on a good performance again. I’ll have to undergo medical tests (on my knee). First, I have to heal the injury, then I’ll think. My job is to do what it takes to get back on the dohyo,” he said.
The Tagonoura stable wrestler has only completed one full tournament since becoming the 72nd grand champion in sumo history in January 2017.
It is the 10th time in his career he is not going the full distance in a grand tournament. Kisenosato’s fifth-day opponent Tamawashi wins by forfeit.
Two other yokozuna, Mongolians Hakuho and Kakuryu, announced their withdrawals before the Kyushu tourney got underway. Hakuho has yet to recover from last month’s right knee surgery, and Kakuryu is nursing a right ankle injury.