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Kotoshogiku ends decade-long wait for Japanese Grand Sumo winner
First home-grown Emperor’s Cup winner since 2006 may inject new life into sumo
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Japanese sumo wrestler Ozeki Kotoshogiku (top) throws Goeido to win the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo, to become the first homegrown wrestler to claim an Emperor's Cup since 2006 Photo: Reuters


By Julian Ryall, Tokyo6:52AM GMT 25 Jan 2016


Aficionados of Japan's national sport have breathed a collective sigh of relief after Ozeki Kotoshogiku triumphed in his final bout of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday, becoming the first Japan-born wrestler to win a "basho" for a decade.

With a record of 14 victories in the 15-bout tournament, the 397-lb wrestler was the first Japanese since January 2006 to lift the Emperor's Cup, and there are hopes that he might reignite interest in a sport that has declined in popularity in recent years.

"There are a lot of fans who still want to see a Japanese wrestler win so I think this victory could bring audiences back and encourage interest in sumo," Makoto Watanabe, a lecturer in communications and media at Hokkaido Bunkyo University, told The Telegraph.

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Re: Kotoshogiku ends decade-long wait for Japanese Grand Sumo winner
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2016, 01:06:59 PM »
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Ozeki Kotoshogiku (C) holds the Emperor's Cup while celebrating with supporters   Photo: Reuters



"One of the problems for Japanese wrestlers has been the influx of foreign 'rikishi' who are perhaps more motivated to do well and be successful," he said.

"There are young hopefuls coming from other parts of Asia, Russia, even Europe now and as well as being determined to do well, they are usually physically stronger, taller and tougher than most Japanese," he said.

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Re: Kotoshogiku ends decade-long wait for Japanese Grand Sumo winner
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2016, 01:08:08 PM »


https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=580&v=1nVMlYAEfOU


"And that's another reason why it is good to see a Japanese wrestler using his intellect and skill to win a tournament," said Mr Watanabe, who added that he was attending a party when the news of Kotoshogiku's victory broke, triggering a round of spontaneous applause.

Despite being Japan's national sport, sumo has struggled to attract young Japanese wrestlers, in part because of the harsh training regime. In 2012, there was horror in the sumo world after only one teenager applied to join a stable ahead of the winter tournament.

That element of a sport that has expressed a desire to be represented at the Olympic Games has been further tarnished by a series of scandals.

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Re: Kotoshogiku ends decade-long wait for Japanese Grand Sumo winner
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2016, 01:13:57 PM »
That element of a sport that has expressed a desire to be represented at the Olympic Games has been further tarnished by a series of scandals.

In June 2010, the sport took a blow when wrestler Kotomitsuki admitted illegally gambling on baseball matches. A magazine claimed that the wrestler was deep in debt and was being blackmailed by members of an underworld group to pay them Y100 million (£589,000) to keep silent.

Kotomitsuki's admission came just days after the head of the Kise stable of wrestlers admitted giving tickets for bouts to senior members of a "yakuza" organized crime group. The JSA responded by disbanding the stable and demoting Kise.


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Japanese sumo wrestler Ozeki Kotoshogiku (C) holds up a sea bream as he celebrates with his wife Yumi (front 2nd L) and his parents (behind Kotoshogiku)   Photo: Reuters


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« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2016, 01:14:52 PM »
In 2011, the association conducted an internal probe that implicated 14 wrestlers and elders of the sport in rigged bouts, taking the unprecedented step of cancelling the tournament in Osaka.

But arguably the single most damaging incident was the death of a 17-year-old wrestler in June 2007.

Takashi Saito was admitted to a hospital in Nagoya with severe bruising that his fellow wrestlers and stable master, Junichi Futatsuryu, claimed was the result of a training accident. Wrestling as Tokitaizan, the boy died and an autopsy subsequently showed that his injuries were not consistent with an accident.

Futatsuryu and three wrestlers were arrested after police learned that Mr Saito had tried to run away from the stable because he found the systematic hazing and physical demands of the training too tough. Caught by his fellow "rikishi," he was taken before Futatsuryu and beaten around the head with a beer bottle. The stable master then ordered the other wrestlers to continue the assault, using a metal baseball bat on Mr Saito.

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« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2016, 01:20:06 PM »
Kotoshogiku has an opportunity to help sumo put the negative headlines behind the sport now.

"I am filled with happiness beyond words," he said after accepting he Emperor's Cup, "I was given lots of support even when I was having a tough time and not getting results, and I'm happy I'm standing here today."
The JSA is reportedly planning to promote him to "yokozuna", the highest rank in sumo, as recognition for his achievement.


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