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Top Mongolian officials erupt over Asashoryu resignation

TOKYO (Kyodo) - Mongolian officials lambasted Japanese sumo officials on Thursday, saying that grand champion Asashoryu was pressured into retirement because they feared that he would surpass the all-time record of 32 title victories held by yokozuna legend Taiho.

Asashoryu, who has been accused of allegedly assaulting a man in a recent drunken rampage, has been accorded hero status in his native Mongolia and television stations were awash with the news of his decision to resign after winning his 25th career title at the New Year meet.

One high-ranking official said, "I believe the Japanese side basically made use of this 'violent incident' to get him to retire from sumo. I feel that they did not want him to break the record for most titles. This behavior is unjust. The Mongolian people disapprove."

A female physician said, "He was the pride of the Mongolian people and it is really unfortunate that he has retired," while a businessman said, "He was forced to retire by the Japan Sumo Association."

Indeed, the conspiracy theory that Asashoryu had been pushed out of sumo was one of the main themes heard on the street.

One 33-year-old man, who works at a television station in Ulan Bator, said, "Many people in Mongolia do not understand the significance of the incident that happened in Japan and they believe that the JSA's reaction and public opinion was too severe."

In contrast, Asashoryu's bombshell announcement got mixed reviews back in Japan, with many saying he had no choice.

"I think it was appropriate for him to resign," said a 60-year-old woman who lives near Asashoryu's Takasago stable in Tokyo's Sumida Ward. "Of course he was powerful but he lacked the dignity of a yokozuna."

Shogoro Suzuki, 74, an avid fan of sumo, put the blame on his stablemaster Takasago. "It is regrettable that a wrestler of his presence is leaving. The stablemaster is to blame for not giving him the guidance he needed."

(Mainichi Japan) February 5, 2010