• Kyodo

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Yokozuna Kakuryu held his final practice of the year on Monday ahead of the upcoming New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, where he hopes to overcome a run of injuries that have forced his withdrawal from the past three meets.

The Mongolian-born grand champion, who will be competing for the first time since obtaining Japanese citizenship, worked up a sweat in a full-contact session in preparation for the 15-day meet starting Jan. 10, his stablemaster Michinoku said.

“At this stage, it looks like he’ll compete. He’s still injured, so we’ll monitor his condition up until the last minute,” Michinoku said via telephone.

Back and elbow injuries have prevented the six-time grand tournament winner from completing a meet since last March, when he finished runner-up to fellow Mongolian-born yokozuna Hakuho.

After both withdrawing from multiple recent grand tourneys, Kakuryu and Hakuho last month received a “warning” from the Yokozuna Deliberation Council, the harshest admonition the body can issue other than recommending a wrestler retire.

The 35-year-old Kakuryu is reportedly making careful adjustments to avoid another withdrawal that would ramp up pressure on him to retire.

“(His condition) isn’t perfect yet. Mind and body need to be in synch. His body is holding up so far, so I hope he can make good progress,” the stablemaster said.

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