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Yokozuna Kisenosato retiring after 3-straight losses in New Year tournament

Yokozuna Kisenosato announces his retirement during a news conference at Ryogoku Kokugikan hall in Tokyo's Sumida Ward on Jan. 16, 2019. (Mainichi/Naoki Watanabe)
Yokozuna Kisenosato is seen going back to his Tagonoura Stable in Tokyo's Shinagawa Ward on Jan. 15, 2019, after suffering three straight losses from Day 1 of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament. (Mainichi/Naoki Watanabe)

TOKYO -- Yokozuna Kisenosato announced his retirement on Jan. 16 after suffering three consecutive defeats during the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament currently underway at Ryogoku Kokugikan hall here.

"I'm retiring as a wrestler in the ongoing tournament and assuming the name of Araiso as a sumo elder," Kisenosato, 32, told a news conference at the hall on the afternoon of Jan. 16.

"It's regrettable that I can't meet your expectations as a yokozuna. However, I feel I've done my best as a sumo wrestler," the grand champion said.

Regarding his recovery from injuries he suffered two years ago, Kisenosato said, "I was gradually recovering, but I was unable to wrestle in my own style. My condition couldn't return to that before I was injured."

The grand champion, who has battled injury recently, staked his career on the New Year tourney but was defeated on the opening three days of the competition. Kisenosato has suffered eight consecutive losses, excluding forfeits, since the final day of the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament in September 2018, the worst record of any yokozuna since the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament in 1949 when the 15-day tournament system was introduced.

Stablemaster Tagonoura speaks to reporters about yokozuna Kisenosato's retirement in front of his stable in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward on Jan. 16, 2019. (Mainichi/Naoaki Hasegawa)

His stablemaster Tagonoura told reporters on Jan. 16 that he had been notified by Kisenosato of his decision to retire the previous evening.

Kisenosato is the first yokozuna to retire since Mongolian grand champion Harumafuji quit sumo in November 2017 to take responsibility for assaulting a younger wrestler. Kisenosato is also the first Japanese-born yokozuna to retire in 16 years since Takanohana in 2003.

Kisenosato, from Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, is expected to train younger wrestlers as a coach. The grappler, whose real name is Yutaka Hagiwara, made his debut in the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in 2002, and he was promoted to ozeki, the second highest rank, following the Kyushu tournament in 2011.

He was then promoted to yokozuna after winning the New Year tournament in 2017, becoming the first Japanese-born sumo wrestler to be named as grand champion in 19 years since Wakanohana's promotion to the top-notch rank in 1998.

A grim-faced yokozuna Kisenosato is seen in the ring at Ryogoku Kokugikan hall in Tokyo's Sumida Ward on Jan. 15, 2019, after suffering his third consecutive loss during the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament. (Mainichi/Daisuke Wada)

Kisenosato suffered injuries to his left chest muscle and other parts of his body in the spring tournament in March 2017, but won the competition as a new yokozuna. However, the injuries forced him to miss eight straight tournaments. Kisenosato recorded 10 wins in the autumn tournament in 2018, but suffered four losses in a row from the beginning of the Kyushu tourney in November that year, becoming the first yokozuna to do so in 87 years. He then withdrew from the tournament from Day 5.

Following the tournament, the Yokozuna Deliberation Council adopted a resolution encouraging Kisenosato to try hard to improve his sumo.

Kisenosato won two grand sumo tournaments in his career. As a yokozuna, he posted a record of 36 victories in 12 tournaments. Kisenosato's career results were 800 wins against 496 losses. In the top makuuchi division, he amassed 714 wins and 453 losses.

(Japanese original by Taro Iiyama and Nobuyuki Mashimo, Sports News Department)

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