• Kyodo, Reuters, AFP-Jiji, staff report


Yokozuna Hakuho looks unlikely to contest the upcoming New Year Grand Sumo tournament after learning Tuesday he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The 15-day New Year Grand Sumo Tournament starts Sunday at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.

"I don't think it (his participation) will happen," Japan Sumo Association communications director Shibatayama said by telephone.

The JSA said the Mongolian-born grand champion received the positive result from a polymerase chain reaction test taken Monday and that he has been hospitalized.

The 35-year-old underwent the PCR test after noticing something wrong with his sense of smell. He is the first wrestler from among sumo's elite ranks atop the first-tier makuuchi division to test positive for the virus.

Shibatayama said all the other wrestlers from Hakuho's Miyagino stable are being tested but did not know if those producing negative tests would be cleared to compete from Sunday without first speaking to health officials.

Hakuho has been dealing with a knee injury and has not completed a tournament since March, when he won the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka.

The 15-day New Year meet will be the first competition since Hakuho — as well as fellow yokozuna Kakuryu — received official warnings from the JSA following repeated injury related absences and withdrawals at recent tournaments. The warning is the sport's strongest rebuke, short of recommending retirement.

Hakuho had been participating in joint training sessions at Ryogoku Kokugikan last month to prepare for his comeback.

Gyōji (referee) Kimura Motoki also tested positive on Monday after complaining of a fever and cough. Member of his Minato stable, including maegashira Ichinojo, were to take PCR tests as a precaution.

On Friday, the association announced a cluster infection at Arashio stable including Arashio stablemaster (the former Sokokurai), maegashira Wakatakakage, jūryō division wrestler Wakamotoharu, eight lower-division trainees and a hairdresser.

So far, the JSA hasn't said whether the tournament will be postponed or otherwise impacted as a result of the recent positive tests or the potential state of emergency that is being evaluated for the greater Tokyo area.

In May, 28-year-old wrestler Shobushi died due to multiple organ failure related to the coronavirus after he became infected.

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