The Japan Sumo Association's yokozuna advisory body on Monday issued a stern warning to the sport's two grand champions, Hakuho and Kakuryu, over their lack of participation in recent competitions.
The session of the Yokozuna Deliberation Council, attended by six members, resolved to hand its second-most severe recommendation to each of the 35-year-old Mongolian-born yokozuna, both of whom missed the entirety of the past two grand tournaments through injury.
The warnings, which have never before been issued, are second only to a retirement recommendation in severity.
Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, only five 15-day grand tournaments were held this year, with the yokozuna managing to go the distance just once each.
Hironori Yano, the council chairman, took issue with the sport's two highest-ranked wrestlers' repeated absences.
Of the six most recent tournaments, Hakuho has only competed sufficiently in three. Kakuryu, meanwhile, has completed just one meet over the same span.
"One can't say they have fulfilled their duties as yokozuna," Yano said. "I want them to be prepared for the next tournament (in January)."
The pair both competed for the full 15 days in March, when the Osaka Grand Tournament was held behind closed doors in response to the risk of coronavirus infection.
Hakuho, who holds the sport's record for grand tournament championships with 44, won last November's Kyushu tourney, and compiled a winning record in July, although he did pull out hurt at the end. Kakuryu, however, has only competed in a handful of bouts since last November.