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Sumo yokozuna council issues rare 'encouragement' notice to struggling Kisenosato

Yokozuna Kisenosato looks uneasy after losing four matches in a row at the November Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament, at the Fukuoka Kokusai Center, in the city of Fukuoka, on Nov. 14, 2018. (Mainichi/Michiko Morizono)

TOKYO -- The Yokozuna Deliberation Council of the Japan Sumo Association has unanimously adopted an "encouragement" notice for young sumo grandmaster yokozuna Kisenosato, who withdrew from the Kyushu Grand Tournament for the first time in two meets earlier this month.

This is the first time the council, which is composed of a third-party panel of persons outside of the sumo world, has issued an encouragement notice since its founding in 1950. The council met in the southern Japanese city of Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu on Nov. 26.

"Kisenosato has not shown strength appropriate to his rank as yokozuna for a long period of time, and this has been a great disappointed for his fans," said council chairman Masato Kitamura. "We are looking forward to his rebound in the next tournament."

In the event that a yokozuna's subpar performance continues for a period of time, the Yokozuna Deliberation Council, with over two-thirds agreement, issues one of three notices -- a request for the yokozuna to retire, a warning and one of encouragement, in order of severity. During the January Grand Sumo Tournament in 2010, the council adopted its first retirement order for yokozuna Asashoryu, who was involved in an assault scandal with an ordinary citizen.

After being absent from the ring for eight consecutive tournaments, Kisenosato returned to the autumn meet with 10 wins, escaping the danger of being forced to withdraw from the sport for the time being. However, at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament in November, Kisenosato became the first yokozuna to open a competition with four losses since the 15-day tournament system was introduced at the May 1949 summer meet. The yokozuna withdrew from the tournament on the fifth day, and criticism urging him to consider resigning has once again gained momentum.

Having been absent from five out of the six tournaments held this year, Kisenosato is once again facing the danger of being pushed to withdraw from the sumo world.

(Japanese original by Taro Iiyama, Sports News Department)

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