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Sumo: Elder Takanohana fails to regain directorship

Stablemaster Takanohana is seen ahead of a Japan Sumo Association board of directors election at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo venue on Feb. 2, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The first Japan Sumo Association director to be dismissed before the end of his term, popular sumo elder and former yokozuna Takanohana, failed to regain his spot on the board of directors on Friday.

The 45-year-old Takanohana was demoted on Jan. 4 over his handling of last year's assault scandal that led to the retirement of grand champion Harumafuji. The stablemaster was one of 11 candidates vying to fill the 10 seats on the JSA's board of directors in Friday's election.

He had won four straight election bids before being disciplined and demoted in January. This time, Takanohana received just two votes in the ballot of all 101 sumo elders at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.

The punishment reflected his failure to promptly report the October incident in which Takanoiwa, a wrestler from his stable, was beaten by fellow Mongolian Harumafuji in a drinking session at a bar during a regional tour.

Takanohana had also been criticized for refusing to cooperate with the internal investigation until he made himself available to the JSA crisis management panel on Dec. 25, despite reporting the case to the police.

The stablemaster, whose real name is Koji Hanada, is known for boosting sumo's popularity during his wrestling career conducted alongside his elder brother Wakanohana. The pair were active in the 1990s through the early 2000s.

Takanohana earned 22 tournament victories, sixth on the all-time list, while setting a number of records including becoming the youngest wrestler to win a top-division title at 19 years and five months. He retired in 2003.

He was elected to the JSA's board of directors for the first time in 2010, but he lost to the association's current chairman Hakkaku in the election to pick sumo's new head in March 2016.

Takanohana is considered an advocate of reform in a sport that has also been rocked by past allegations of match-fixing and hazing.

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