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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 July 2007, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Popularity blow for Japanese sumo
Sumo wrestler Hakuho points at his name on the just-released sumo ranking bill at Nagoya, central Japan, on Monday June 25, 2007
Mongolians such as Hakuho now dominate the sport
Japan's sumo organisation has been forced to cancel tests for new recruits after no-one applied, for the first time in its recorded history.

The Japan Sumo Association called off tests ahead of the 8 July Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament, one of six annual tournaments in Japan.

Sumo has waned in popularity, unable to compete with the more modern pursuits of football and baseball.

Foreigners have recently come to dominate the sport in Japan.

The two reigning grand champions, Asashoryu and Hakuho, are both Mongolian.

Mystery death

The Nihon Sumo Kyokai (Japan Sumo Association) cancelled the test scheduled for Monday - the first time it has been forced to do so since 1936 when current standards were established, the Asahi newspaper said.

"It's a pity. It's sad. The [test before the] Nagoya basho has always been one with few applicants, so we may be seeing similar situations in the future, too," Katsutoshi Hidenoyama, the association's director in charge of the Nagoya tournament, told the newspaper.

The Osaka tournament tests in March are normally the most popular as they come at the end of the academic year, but even that one has failed to attract more than 100 applicants for the past seven years, Asahi said.

Sumo recruits undergo rigorous training. A 17-year-old wrestler who made his professional debut in May collapsed and died last month after a training session.

Police are investigating reports of unexplained injuries on the body of Takashi Saito, also known as Tokitaizan.

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