Yokozuna Hakuho broke his silence Monday to explain himself for the first time since criticizing ringside judges for calling a do-over in his bout against ozeki Kisenosato at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament in January.
Speaking at a press conference that got started about 15 minutes behind schedule at the Miyagino stable's dormitory in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, Hakuho said he had only been speaking his mind. It was the first time he touched on the subject since making a brief apology in a TV appearance at the end of January.
"I am sure that everyone here has their own thoughts and feelings (about what I said), so I'd just say, think about it. I just spoke my mind," he said.
Pressed by reporters about what he meant by the critical remarks, Hakuho said while looking away, "Well, how should I put it? Inside one's heart, there are some things one is unable to say." He made no further apologies.
In the bout in question on the 13th day of the January meet, ringside judges called for a do-over after ruling that Hakuho and Kisenosato went over the edge at practically the same time. Hakuho beat Kisenosato outright in the rematch to claim the all-time record with his 33rd career championship.
But the Mongolian-born grand champion later said, "It was sumo even a child would understand" after reviewing the video footage.
He raised eyebrows further when he remarked that "the color of one's skin doesn't matter. When I am on the dohyo I have the spirit of Japan laced in my topknot. We are all human beings."
Japan Sumo Association Chairman Kitanoumi later reprimanded his stable elder Miyagino for the remarks.