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Sumo: Estonian wrestler Baruto promoted to ozeki

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Estonian wrestler Baruto was promoted to sumo's second-highest rank of ozeki on Wednesday after a series of strong performances in recent tournaments.

The Japan Sumo Association unanimously endorsed Baruto's promotion at an executive committee meeting convened after the 25-year-old compiled a 14-1 record at last week's Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka, where his only defeat came at the hands of lone grand champion and eventual championship winner Hakuho.

Wrestling at sumo's third rank of sekiwake, Baruto, whose real name is Kaido Hoovelson, went 9-6 at the Kyushu basho in November and followed up with a 12-3 showing in January at the New Year meet.

His record in Osaka saw him surpass the JSA's loosely set requirement for ozeki promotion of 33 to 34 wins over three consecutive tournaments.

"I want to be cheerful and be an ozeki that can live up to the expectations of the fans," Baruto said after officials were sent by the sport's governing body to convey the decision.

"Unless I win a championship I can't move up to yokozuna. I just have to target winning a title," he said.

Baruto, whose cheerful disposition and quirky sense of humor has won him an increasing number of fans, becomes the eighth foreign-born ozeki and second European wrestler after Bulgarian grappler Kotooshu to attain the rank.

He is the first wrestler to be promoted to ozeki since Ama, now known as Harumafuji, in November 2008.

A former judo wrestler who also once worked as a nightclub bouncer, Baruto arrived in Japan in 2004 and worked his way through the lower divisions before reaching sumo's second-tier juryo division for the 2005 autumn meet.

He became the first wrestler in 43 years to win the juryo title with a perfect 15-0 record at the 2006 spring basho and joined the elite makuuchi division two months later.

(Mainichi Japan) March 31, 2010

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