Hakuho victorious on Day 1 in front of empty arena
Japan Times -- Mar 09
Hakuho made a winning start to the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday, overpowering Endo at an empty Edion Arena Osaka.

The 15-day tournament is taking place behind closed doors after the Japan Sumo Association earlier this month made the unprecedented decision to keep out spectators in order to help combat the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Before the top-division bouts kicked off, JSA Chairman Hakkaku delivered an address in which he thanked sumo fans for their continued support despite the tournament being held under such unusual conditions.

“For the wrestlers, this meet will be very difficult, but we are grateful for fans voicing encouragement,” Hakkaku said.

“We hope to meet the expectations of everyone watching on television.”

Former ozeki Kotoshogiku likened competing in the subdued atmosphere to a religious rite.

“It has a sanctified feel to it, like going to a (Shinto) shrine,” said the 36-year-old, who is now fighting near the bottom of the upper-division rankings as a No. 13 maegashira. “Yet again I felt that this is indeed a sacred place, and I want to give it all I have.”

Yokozuna Hakuho, who will turn 35 on Wednesday, is aiming to extend his record for career championships to 44. Both he and fellow Mongolian-born yokozuna Kakuryu pulled out of the previous New Year Grand Sumo Tournament in January due to injuries.

News source: Japan Times
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