Yokozuna Terunofuji will compete at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament starting this weekend as he makes his return after withdrawing from three straight meets, his stablemaster Isegahama said Thursday.
The 32-year-old lone grand champion won his eighth Emperor's Cup in May last year with a 14-1 record, but finished the ensuing Nagoya basho 1-3 with 11 days missed due to back pain. He sat out the following two tournaments entirely.
The injury-plagued wrestler also sat out the three meets preceding his championship in May while recovering from dual knee surgery that he underwent in October 2022.
"He's lacking the (practice time) but says he wants to compete," Isegahama said. "From what I'm seeing, I can't tell about his condition until he actually wrestles."
"He says he's doing well, but his number of bouts during practice is still fewer than when he was well. It'll be about how many long bouts, stamina-wise, he can handle."
During a regular Yokozuna Deliberation Council meeting of the Japan Sumo Association held in November after the Kyushu meet, some members called for Terunofuji to return to action at the 15-day New Year tournament, which starts Sunday in Tokyo.
With members of the committee watching on Tuesday, the Mongolian-born yokozuna practiced against high-ranked opponents but still looked less than fully fit.
Isegahama said he decided on Wednesday to let Terunofuji take part at the upcoming meet "irrespective of" talks about his future and "out of respect" for his desire to wrestle.