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Sumo: Grand champion Kisenosato to miss record 8th straight meet

Yokozuna Kisenosato (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Kisenosato will withdraw from the upcoming grand sumo tournament, extending his streak of missed events to a yokozuna-record eight meets, his stablemaster said Thursday.

Kisenosato, the first Japan-born wrestler in 19 years to gain promotion to sumo's highest rank, has missed all or part of the last seven meets due to a lingering left chest muscle injury. He has only completed one full tournament since being promoted in January 2017.

He surpassed former yokozuna Takanohana, who missed seven full tournaments in 2001 and 2002, as the grand champion with the most consecutive meets missed since 1958, the year the six-event annual system was introduced.

"Although I have been trying desperately to be in shape, I decided to withdraw since I haven't made enough progress," Kisenosato said. "I will put everything into competing at the next meet."

"I'm at the point now (when the question of retirement is surfacing). But my sense of the sport, as well as my muscular strength, has improved a lot. I'll do my best to be able to come back."

Kisenosato missed parts of four and sat out three entire meets since winning last year's Spring tournament on his yokozuna debut. The 15-day Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament beginning Sunday will be his third straight full withdrawal.

"He has been working hard, but would like to have a little more time. Since he is really working his body, I want him to gain confidence with more practice," Kisenosato's stablemaster Tagonoura said.

The 32-year-old is one of three wrestlers who sit atop the latest banzuke rankings, along with Mongolians Kakuryu and Hakuho.

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