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Sumo is basically the same

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I was...well, not "expecting", but hoping to see a more urgent type of sumo at the skill test. More desperate battles on the tawara, less people meekly stepping backwards out of the dohyo, that sort of thing. But my impression is that the sumo we are seeing now is basically the same as before the scandal. We even had henka on the very first day!

I don't see too many of the "new" viewers that the extraordinary circumstances attracted sticking around once things settle down...

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Sumo: Wrestlers' newfound zeal causing concern for risk in ring

With all the talk of avoiding a recurrence of match fixing, it appears that sumo wrestlers are taking their fighting to a new extreme.

Over the first week of the May Technical Examination Tournament, wrestlers have been locking horns like never before, sending opponents toppling over the raised ring with a newfound primordial savageness.

But their overzealousness to prove they are true warriors is also raising concerns of an increase in the risk of injuries.

"There are many opinions out there but we are seeing a lot of good sumo," Japan Sumo Association Chairman Hanaregoma said Saturday.

In order to discourage match fixing, the JSA has said it plans to revamp its injury system. Currently, after sitting out of a meet due to injury a wrestler must post a majority of wins in his next tournament to maintain his rank.

Yoshinobu Shimamura, who heads a new committee formed to avoid a recurrence of match fixing and is calling for a new injury system, said, "If wrestlers get hurt now, the coaches will probably argue that they will be fine. They will somehow get through it," Shimamura said.

So far, no one in the top two divisions has gotten hurt, but some sumo officials believe it's only a matter of time.

Grand champion Hakuho's stablemaster Miyagino, who is inspecting bouts for their veracity at the 15-day "test meet" said, "If they go all out, of course there'll be more injuries."

Russian Aran is a case in point. The No. 5 maegashira was disqualified for pulling Yoshikaze's topknot in their bout on Saturday after a heated exchange.

Although Aran has committed similar offenses on two previous occasions -- the most ever in the elite makuuchi division -- his desperation to win was palpable.

Former makuuchi wrestler Kokkai of Georgia, who has fallen from grace into the second-tier juryo division and has chronic pain in several parts of his body, has had a poor showing at the ongoing Tokyo meet. But in the 10 years since he joined sumo, he has never pulled out of a tournament.

"I can't hit my opponents straight on. I would be grateful to have an injury," he said.

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