Musashimaru 100kg heavier than rival

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 May, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 May, 2003, 12:00am

American-born man-mountain Musashimaru finds himself on the wrong side of the ring for the May Grand Sumo Tournament, which opens in Tokyo this afternoon. The 32-year-old will be trying for his 13th career championship, but has been ranked as the 'West' yokozuna for the first time in 11 tournaments.

The honour of being 'East' yokozuna has gone to Mongolian Asashoryu - 10 years younger and 100 kilograms lighter than Musashimaru.

Asashoryu was promoted to the prized top spot on the Banzuke (official rankings) for the tournament after successive 14-1 performances in the November and January events. His elevation was also enabled by the non-appearance for the Spring tournament in March of Musashimaru and the sudden retirement of the great Japanese yokozuna Takanahana, who bowed out with an amazing 22 championships.

Asashoryu came crashing to earth, however, finishing that event with a less-then-convincing 10-5 as up-and-coming Chiyotaikai manoeuvered his way to his second grand championship, with 13 wins and two losses. He won his first silverware from the July tournament last year with 14-1.

Chiyotaikai, 27, now goes into this event, which runs from today until May 25 at the famous Kokugikan in the Ryogoku section of Tokyo, with the chance to also win promotion to yokozuna, the highest ranking in the top Manuuchi Division of sumo. 'I'm going to do my absolute very best out there so I hope you'll be rooting for me,' said the 156kg Chiyotaikai, who hails from the Kokonoe stable.

But he will face heavy artillery from Musashimaru, who has plenty of weight at 239kg and plenty to prove after being overshadowed since his last win in September, and from the inscrutable Asashoryu, who has shown himself to be an extremely aggressive rikishi.

Asashoryu is one of four Mongolians in the sport in Japan and is lighter than most at 139kg. The wrestler from the Takasago Heya made his debut in January 1999 and two years later in the same January tournament entered the top division. Two wrestlers ranked ozeki come into this event under the threat of demotion for the second time.

This is Musoyama's second tournament 'kadoban', or in danger of demotion from the second highest rank. The last time was for the 2000 July tournament. The other is Tochiazuma, who missed a full tournament due to a recognised injury received during one of the six grand tournaments. He had gone into last November's tournament facing demotion, and managed only 8-7 to just hold on to his position.

The entire programme of bouts in the Manuuchi Division of the tournament will be broadcast live on Cable TV, through the NHK World Premium channel 48, from 3pm-5pm every day.