Sumo

Determined sekiwake Takakeisho not shying away from desire to become ozeki

Kyodo

Sumo wrestler Takakeisho said Wednesday he sees himself in a new light as he began training ahead of next month’s Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, where he aims to secure promotion to the sport’s second-highest rank.

Takakeisho, who currently fights as a sekiwake, will be gunning for a promotion to ozeki at the March 10-24 meet in Osaka Prefecture. He missed his chance at January’s New Year meet despite meeting some of the criteria typically needed to reach the rank.

“I used to waffle on the subject (of promotion) by saying ‘I hope to go up the banzuke rankings’ instead of using the word ozeki,” said Takakeisho, who won his maiden championship in November.

“I need to force myself into a position (to go after promotion). The more pressure the better.”

The 22-year-old said he hopes to achieve the milestone at the Spring tournament at Edion Arena Osaka, where he has both good and bad memories. He earned promotion to sumo’s second-tier juryo division following the 2016 meet, but a right-foot injury forced him to pull out of last year’s competition.

“I have a lot of memories about Osaka. I want this meet to lead to something great,” he said.

Takakeisho had gone into the 15-day January tournament at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan aiming to repeat his success at the November meet, where he won his first makuuchi division title with a 13-2 record.

Despite posting 33 combined wins from three tournaments — one standard for ozeki promotion — the Japan Sumo Association’s judging panel decided not to grant Takakeisho a promotion after he ended the New Year meet in defeat.

The young sekiwake sustained a right-foot injury in the loss to ozeki Goeido, but started light training Wednesday at his Chiganoura stable in Tokyo. Takakeisho said he is not worried about his condition despite being uncertain of when he can resume wrestling.

“I’ll be fine. I’ll treat the injury while I train. All wrestlers are going through some kind of pain,” he said.