• Kyodo


Members of the Japan Sumo Association’s Yokozuna Council expressed hope Sunday that embattled Kisenosato can turn around his fortunes, but optimism was in short supply after his defeat on the opening day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

The yokozuna, who was not impressive in his loss to komusubi Mitakeumi, has failed to finish nine of the last 10 meets. In November, he became the first yokozuna in 87 years to lose his first four bouts at a grand tournament. In response, the council drafted its first-ever “letter of encouragement” to remind the grand champion of his need to succeed.

“Every one of us is cheering him on,” said council chairman Masato Kitamura. “We want to see something, anything.”

Another council member, Shunichi Tokura said, “I’m sure he’s giving it all he has, but results are results.”

“Nobody knows this better than he does. It’s an unfortunate situation.”

JSA chairman Hakkaku said matter-of-factly, “He’s attacking, but he was stopped cold. We’ll have to just see tomorrow.”

Kisenosato, who entered the ring to a rousing show of support from fans at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan, many displaying banners with his name, said — in the few words he uttered to the media afterward — “There’s still time. I’m going to step up.”

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