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2013 Haru Post-basho Report
| Pre-basho ReportHelmut Newton sumo.
Let's begin our review of the Haru
basho with a discussion of the sansho, the three special prizes the Sumo
Association can award at a tournament known as the Kantosho (fighting spirit),
the Shukunsho (outstanding performance), and the Ginosho (technical merit). The
Kantosho is usually awarded to the rikishi with the best record outside of the
Yokozuna and Ozeki ranks. A rookie who posts double-digit wins in his debut
basho is also a likely Kantosho candidate. The Shukunsho is awarded to a rikishi
or multiple rikishi who defeat a Yokozuna at a hon-basho and/or multiple Ozeki.
For example, if a rikishi ranked at M2 defeats an Ozeki, it's called a shukun
victory, and it goes without saying that a win over a Yokozuna puts a dude on
the fast track to a Shukunsho regardless of how he fares against the Ozeki. The
Ginosho is awarded to a rikishi who has a solid basho while displaying excellent
technique. For example, if a rank and filer henka'd is way to five victories and
then picked up seven more victories with various techniques, he'd likely win a
Kantosho but not a Ginosho. Conversely, it's not rare to see a Ginosho given to
a rikishi with just nine wins if some of those wins were achieved with
noteworthy technique. Finally, a rikishi must kachi-koshi (win eight bouts or
more) in order to win a prize, and the Yokozuna and Ozeki are not eligible to
receive these prizes since the expectation is that they live up to all three of
these standards every basho.
Now, after having made that last statement, I could go in various directions
with this report, but the point I want to make here is that for the first time
in sumo's modern history, there was a decent chance that a hon-basho would end
with no rikishi receiving a special prize. The Sumo Association announces these
special prizes the morning of senshuraku; however, about half of the time the
stipulation is given that the rikishi must win his senshuraku bout in order to
receive the prize. In Osaka, two rikishi were listed as possible sansho
candidates, but both had the stipulation of needing to win their senshuraku
bouts in order make it official. Toyonoshima was a perfect Shukunsho candidate
after having defeated Harumafuji and two Ozeki, but he was stuck on seven wins
heading into the final day, so he needed to best Tochiohzan in order to make the
prize official. The other candidate was Okinoumi who kept the yusho race alive
at least until day 13 but didn't look that impressive in doing so. Coming into
the final day at 10 wins, they stipulated that he needed to beat Myogiryu in
order to garner a Kantosho.
So as I heard this news at the beginning of the senshuraku broadcast, I actually
put the odds in favor of both candidates losing because they had stiff
competition on the final day. Okinoumi ended up defeating Myogiryu and earning
the Kantosho, but the very fact that we could have ended Osaka with no sansho
awarded encapsulates perfectly the type of basho we had this spring. The Osaka
basho is often called Areru Haru Basho, or the turbulent Haru basho because you
never know what's going to happen, and Hakuho said it best in his yusho
interview when he joked about himself in the third person, "everyone was
areru except for Hakuho." I mean, you had a Yokozuna finish 9-6; the top
Ozeki only won 10; and the two other Ozeki who actually finished the basho both
ended at 8-7. Couple that with the four bout difference between the yusho
rikishi and jun-yusho rikishi, and on paper, it was really a disastrous basho.
But the strange thing is it didn't necessarily feel like a disaster, at least
until late in week two, so credit the Sumo Association for excellent marketing
and enticing the fans to fill the Body Maker Coliseum to capacity, especially in
the second week. And no, despite what my wife thinks, the Body Maker Coliseum is
not a reference to that new guy writing for us; it really is the name of the
arena where they hold the tournament. In the end, Hakuho's zensho yusho provided
for a storyline that could be used by the media to trump up Hakuho's greatness
while overshadowing the fact that everyone else sucked, but in the end, the
reality still exists that you have the greatest rikishi who ever stepped atop
the dohyo in my opinion; a borderline Ozeki in a different decade; and then a
whole lotta parity among the other 40 guys, which will continue to force the
Association to continue to...how shall I put it...be creative in their
Enough of this nonsense, however. Let's discuss the individual rikishi of note
starting with Hakuho who picked up his 24th career yusho by posting a
record-breaking 15-0 performance otherwise known as a zensho yusho. The most
positive aspect of this feat was that the Sumo Association and media were able
to dwell on that instead of just how dismal everyone else was. NHK strengthened
that notion on their Sunday Night Sports show where they created a graphic
showing how Hakuho had surpassed three of the greatest rikishi of all time.
First, they pointed out that Hakuho's nine zensho yusho put him past Taiho's
previous record of eight. Next up was the fact that Hakuho has won in
double-digits for 37 basho in a row, a mark that surpassed Kitanoumi's record of
36. And lastly, they showed the statistic of Hakuho securing kachi-koshi by day
eight for his 26th basho, an achievement that puts him past Chiyonofuji for that
record. Hakuho has yet to surpass Kitanoumi and Chiyonofuji in the career yusho
category, but it was a genuine tribute to a great rikishi, who has done so much
for the sport, especially behind the scenes. They also dedicated some time to
illustrate the former Taiho's affinity with Hakuho showing pictures of the two
in various scenes and displaying quotes from Taiho regarding Hakuho before the
legend passed away in January. Even at Monday's yusho press conference, Hakuho
fingered a koshi-himo rope fastened to his kimono worn by Taiho and
explained how it was a gift from Taiho's widow, who said it was one of her
husband's favorites. Up until about five years ago, I would look at Taiho's
dominating record of 32 career yusho and wonder what it must have been like to
watch such a dominant rikishi perform atop the dohyo. Well, now I have my
As for Hakuho's sumo in Osaka, it wasn't perfect but then again it didn't have
to be. He was a in a bit of danger on day 1 against Aminishiki, and he was in
real danger against Kotoshogiku in week 2 although the Ozeki failed to take any
sort of advantage, but other than that, Hakuho was a rikishi exercising the sumo
basics to perfection as he mowed through the field picking up the yusho by day
13. His performance gave everyone something positive to dwell on after the basho
and can be likened to a golden crown covering a rotten tooth. Hakuho will
rightly reassume the East Yokozuna slot in May putting the sumo gods at ease
Across the aisle is Yokozuna Harumafuji, who had an okay basho. It was clear to
me prior to the basho that the Yokozuna would not be 100%, and no it wasn't
because it really was too cold in Osaka, and no it wasn't because Harumafuji's
foot really was bothering him. Those were just two excuses used to forecast
Harumafuji's upcoming losses, which is something I covered in my pre-basho
report and then throughout the first week of the tourney. Even after the basho,
the YDC went easy on the guy. I read where the chairman of that useless
committee said, "Harumafuji did his best despite his foot injuries." Remember
after Kyushu when Harumafuji posted the same 9-6 record? The YDC came down on
him hard, so his answer was a 15-0 run in January. Looks like everyone learned
their lesson from that, so Harumafuji gets a pass this basho as he gears up for
May. I stick to my guns in calling him a borderline Ozeki in a different decade,
but you have to give him props for establishing himself as the clear number two
guy in this decade.
In the Ozeki ranks, Kisenosato checks in at 10-5, and that actually includes a
yudan loss to Goeido on day 8, so I view his performance as an 11-win
basho. And when you think about it, look what he can do when all of the pressure
is off of him. The Japanese yusho will come when the Association doesn't make it
so obvious. Just let these guys do their thang, and the two Yokozuna are smart
enough to back off if needed in the end. Regarding Kisenosato's sumo, he's just
got to ensure that he gets at least one arm to the inside at the tachi-ai as
losses to guys like Myogiryu and Tochiohzan occur when he's bested at the
initial charge...something that should never happen to an Ozeki. Still, I was
encouraged by the Kid and enjoyed his sumo in Osaka.
Regarding Ozeki Kakuryu, I think Kane said it best on day 6 when he suggested
that it was time for Kakuryu to release the hounds. It's funny how after time
when you blog on a sport, you really do lose all rooting interests since it's
more important to get the call right than it is to defend and justify one's
favorite rikishi. Having said that, if you asked me today who my favorite
rikishi in sumo was, I'd say Kakuryu. When this Ozeki does release the hounds in
a bout, it's a thing of beauty, and the best barometer to measure this guy are
his bouts against Baruto. He is so precise and tactical against the Estonian
that I just shake my head and wonder what could have been if he didn't play his
role and let up a against many of his Japanese opponents. In Osaka Kakuryu went
3-6 against full-blooded Japanese rikishi and 5-1 against the furries. Not a
coincidence. Thing is...Hakuho, Kakuryu and even Harumafuji get it. You have two
choices: live in Mongolia or live off the fat of the land in Japan. Easy choice,
and it's an easy call for all three of 'em.
That brings us to Ozeki Kotoshogiku who finished once again (sigh) 8-7 after
giving it his all. Kotoshogiku's record in January? 8-7. Last November? 8-7.
Last July? 2-13. When an Ozeki magically finishes 8-7 on a consistent basis and
is given wins during the fortnight, he's done 7-2 starts be damned. Thanks to a
very weak banzuke, Kotoshogiku will be able to survive in this climate for a
year or two more, but he's not capable of being a player in a future basho. So
let it be written, so let it be done.
I have no new revelations regarding Sekiwake Goeido beyond what I've already
stated in my pre-basho report and daily comments. Like Kisenosato, I think we'll
start seeing quality sumo from Goeido just as soon as the Association starts
pimping someone else. As for Baruto, he's become the new barometer in the
division. In other words, if you're not good enough to beat the Estonian, you're
not fighting at a level to yusho. And I'd take it a step further and say if you
can beat Baruto in a straight-up bout then you've got game. As for his sumo this
basho, he's been slowed down enough by injuries to the point where the upper
echelon guys can take advantage of his tachi-ai. I don't consider Takayasu an
elite rikishi yet, but even he caught the Sekiwake napping on day 7, which goes
to show why it's highly unlikely that the Estonian will ever regain his Ozeki
rank. Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku managed to set the bar pretty low and this talk
of Goeido's candidacy has lowered it even more, but even then, Baruto's got too
much mileage on him any more to regain the rank.
Komusubi Tochiohzan has improved to the point where I'd say he's even surpassed
Baruto. I realize that the Estonian got him this basho, but Tochiohzan's
tachi-ai is much improved, and it's what has been helping him stay in the
sanyaku for three basho straight now. Doesn't look as if Goeido or Baruto will
drop from the Sekiwake rank soon, but Tochiohzan has out-fought both of them the
last few tournaments. The question is...can Oh take that next step? Perhaps it's
time for the Association to refocus their sites on Tochiohzan and throw Goeido
back to the wolves. Tochiohzan didn't suffer a single bad loss in Osaka, and how
many guys can win 10 from the Komusubi rank? I'm convinced that Komusubi
Aminishiki is doing yudan sumo as a way for the Isegahama-beya to give
back to the sport in exchange for Harumafuji's promotion to Yokozuna. And I'm
not saying that bouts were thrown that allowed Harumafuji to earn that rank; I'm
saying that the current elders in the Association are looking at Harumafuji and
thinking, "that's not what a Yokozuna looked like in our day." As a result of
Harumafuji's success due to such a crappy banzuke, Isegahama-oyakata is giving
back using Aminishiki as his pawn. I would put Shneaky right up there with
Kakuryu: one of my favorite guys to watch but someone who isn't allowed to
always release the hounds on his opponent. Dude coulda gone 9-6 in Osaka if
he'da wanted to in my opinion.
M1 Takayasu was not good this basho. It's one thing to get beat up by the
sanyaku and above, but you at least have to show well against the guys below you
if you want to ever grace the sanyaku. Takayasu went just 2-4. Dude's got the
size, but I swear the same guy is coaching him at the tachi-ai that's coaching
Kisenosato. Counterpart Tochinoshin was a loss at the hands of Ikioi away from
returning to the sanyaku finishing 7-8. Contrasting him with Takayasu, NoShine
when 4-1 against guys ranked below him, and that's why he'll be fighting from
the jo'i again next basho while Takayasu will slide out of the elite ranks.
I was sorry to see M2 Chiyotairyu injured that first week after a 3-3 start. I
see so much potential in this guy, and I know he has the physical tools to reach
Ozeki. Whether he can do that mentally remains to be seen, but he's got the best
shot of anyone at picking up Japan's first yusho in over 7 years now. As long as
Chiyotairyu sticks to forward moving sumo, he will soar. Counterpart Myogiryu
will likely inch back up into Aminishiki's Komusubi slot, but after his curious
run to Sekiwake last year, he hasn't shown that he's better than guys like
Tochiohzan and Aminishiki.
No comment on the M3's other than to say I don't think it's a coincidence that
Ikioi showed well against the Yokozuna the first weekend and then won his final
two bouts on the second weekend. Makes for good TV ya know.
How would you like to be M4 Toyonoshima standing at 7-3 with a win over a
Yokozuna only to end your campaign 0-5. Granted, just outside of the jo'i, he
started off with much easier opponents, but once you make a run from this range,
you'll get the harder rikishi down the stretch, especially when an Ozeki
withdraws as Kotooshu did and they need a replacement. You can't fault
Toyonoshima for losing to Kisenosato, Goeido, Baruto, and Tochiohzan those last
five days, but when all that stands between you and the Shukunsho prize money is
Takekaze? That stings. Counterpart Shohozan's fifteen minutes of fame apparently
expired last year. When you've got to stall and monkey around at the tachi-ai,
it's a sign that you know you don't have any game. Thing is...I think Shohozan
does have a bit of game, but he's mentally taken himself out of things.
Have you noticed that M6 Gagamaru has stopped driving with his legs at the
tachi-ai? The result is far more of his opponents who are able to pull him down
or get to the side quickly and then just drag him down by the belt. At 5-10 this
basho, dude's got to figure out how potent his de-ashi are and then stick to
them. Counterpart Kitataiki shone in Osaka finishing 10-5, but when you're a vet
like him, you've got to do this three or four notches up before anyone will be
impressed. Dude's never been ranked higher than M3...until next basho when he
should be M1.
There's not a whole lot to slobber about regarding M7 Okinoumi. On day 9 when
both he and Kotoshogiku were 7-2, I wasn't impressed with either one of them.
Then when it was apparent that Okinoumi was the likely jun-yusho rikishi because
Kotoshogiku still had a rough schedule ahead, they gave Okinoumi Masunoyama,
Aran, and Chiyonokuni to start off the second week. What, was Sotairyu not
available? The Sumo Association knew exactly what they had with Okinoumi this
basho, and so they eased him into that 11-4 finish that resulted in the yusho
being officially determined on day 13 when it should have been determined like
on day 11. I didn't think Okinoumi was great, but I have to admit, I was kind of
jealous of Wakanosato when Kane posted that picture of Wakanosato and Okinoumi
in the bath together. We'll find out what Okinoumi's made of next basho from the
jo'i and possibly the sanyaku.
M8 Aoiyama picked up his first kachi-koshi in three basho, which shows you how
tough it is to come back from an injury when you're carrying all of that weight.
I think counterpart Kyokutenho took one for the team on senshuraku against Ikioi
resulting in his 7-8 finish. Getting back to my point about Isegahama using
Aminishiki as a way to give back to the Association, Kyokutenho was handed a
yusho less than a year ago, so his losing to Ikioi on a Sunday was the least he
could do even if it did result in his make-koshi.
The best rikishi in my opinion from the rank and file was M10 Takarafuji who
just bullied his foes around for an 11-4 finish that didn't include a single
crap win in terms of kimari-te. Takarafuji used crushing tachi-ai and pure
de-ashi to post his record, and unfortunately, a few losses in week 1 meant that
Okinoumi would be used as the faux runner up instead of Takarafuji. I'm actually
optimistic regarding this guy next basho from the M5 rank or thereabouts.
M11 Jokoryu had his best Makuuchi basho, and I realize that he's largely facing
crap rikishi down there, but like Takarafuji, you could just see a confidence in
him that made him want to take it to his opponents instead of take it from his
opponents. I enjoyed Jokoryu and his 9-6 finish.
You know the instant the life was taken out of this basho? On day 8 when M14
Let's move along to our two rookies who both entered the division after very
lengthy stays in both Juryo and the under-divisions. When you're promoted to the
Makuuchi division and news articles contain the katakana word for "slow"
referencing the length of time it took to make the climb, you're not going to
amount to anything in the division. I know there are some people out there who
will say, "well, you never know." Yes, I do know. Sotairyu's 4-11 was a perfect
example. Oiwato was slightly better and actually created a three bout win streak
days 2 - 4 when he figured out you could actually side step guys at the
tachi-ai, but his opponents figggered it out quick resulting in his 2-9 finish.
There's just nothing to break down regarding either of the two rookies.
And that's a wrap on the 2013 Haru basho. Big ups to Kane for laying down his
axe for two weeks and joining us here at the hotel in Osaka for the festivities.
I really enjoyed his writing and look forward to more of his licks (not those
kinds of licks sicko...I'm using cool 80's terms from the hair band era) next
basho, but if I did learn anything from him, it was how to create sweet
daydreams. So as I head into my four week hibernation, I will now summon a dream
to tide myself over until next time.
Okay...I'm a caveman...no, even better...I'm a transgender caveman...and I've
been invited to a meeting of the Foreign Press Club in Tokyo...and I'm giving
the keynote address...and Hakuho's there sitting at the table with me...and he's
giving me that look. Oh yeah, that's the stuff dreams are made of!
2013 Haru Pre-basho ReportHelmut Newton sumo.
You can imagine my excitement when
the first news articles popping up after the sumo caravan entered Osaka referred
to Takanohana making the rounds on local television stations and declaring
Goeido the number one candidate for Ozeki promotion. Call it a case of uneasy
déjà vu, but I couldn't help reflect on Takanohana's same declarations two years
ago when he proclaimed Kisenosato and Goeido as prime candidates for Ozeki even
though they weren't worthy. The Haru basho was ultimately cancelled that year
due to the yaocho scandal (wait...there's yaocho in sumo?), but since Takanohana
is the PR guy for the Haru basho, he was pimping the promotion of Kotoshogiku
and Kisenosato the instant the Hatsu basho ended. What transpired in 2011 is
largely forgettable, but we're seeing the pattern repeat itself prior to Osaka.
There's no way that they can promote Goeido to Ozeki after this basho due to his
awful 8-7 in January, but don't be surprised if he makes the rank before the
year is over. And in order for him to do that, many of the top rikishi are
really going to have to hold back similar to the way they did last year in Natsu
to try and get a Japanese rikishi to hoist the Emperor's Cup.
Another subject that makes me extremely uncomfortable is the ease with which
Harumafuji has been racking up zensho yusho. As I pointed out in January, only
two rikishi have ever won three zensho yusho in the span of four basho: Hakuho
and Harumafuji. When you start listing the greatest rikishi in the modern era
(post WWII), Harumafuji would probably check in around #40; yet, he's been able
to achieve feats on the dohyo that surpass even the great ones, and so it's very
difficult for someone like me to digest what has happened over the last six
months. And if it's making me uneasy, you know that it's making the Sumo
Association uncomfortable because not only is Harumafuji not a legitimate
3-zensho-yusho-in-4-basho guy, but he's also Mongolian, and we can't have
foreigners holding any major records in sumo.
If you look at the list of rikishi with 20 yusho or more, here's how it breaks
down in terms of zensho yusho:
Then, once you start listing rikishi who have at least three zensho yusho in
your career, you're dealing with names like Wajima and Kitanofuji. Coming from
an unbiased foreigner, it's insulting that Harumafuji even be mentioned in that
company, and I get the feeling that the Sumo Association is about to put a stop
to it. And if you're wondering what I'm talking about, just refer to the list
above and consider how Hakuho's run of zensho yusho magically stopped at 7.
I understand why the Sumo Association needs to set the table for Japanese
rikishi to the extent possible basho in and basho out, and I'm actually okay
with it since it's critical to sumo's survival as a relevant sport, but even the
Sumo Association has its limits in terms of what they'll allow foreign rikishi
to achieve. The reason I'm even talking about this is I sense we are due for
another major pullback from the foreign rikishi similarly to what happened last
year at the Natsu basho. My preference is that all rikishi would be allowed to
fight straight up every day, and I understand why it can't be that way, but the
end result will be some very ugly basho this year, and I don't know that sumo
has any other choice in Osaka but to give us more ugly. I hope I'm wrong here,
but the combination of this nonsense hyping Goeido and the need to put a lid on
Harumafuji's zensho yusho will likely result in a watered down tournament.
Watered down or not, it's still time to dance, so let's focus on the rikishi
prior to the tournament starting with Hakuho, whose looking to make it four in a
row in Osaka. Pre-basho keiko reports have been run of the mill for the
Yokozuna, but there has been one particular aspect of his keiko that caught my
attention. Several days ago, he made it a point to visit the Tokitsukaze-beya
when he knew the Sakaigawa-beya guys would be there, so he could rough Myogiryu
up. If you've only watched sumo the last few years, you've probably never heard
of the tradition where if a Yokozuna gets beat at a hon-basho, he will single
that guy out during keiko prior to the next basho and just kick his ass. Well,
Hakuho did that to Myogiryu in Osaka, and it made me think, "oh yeah, Yokozuna
are supposed to do that after they lose." Why we haven't seen that done lately,
however, is because Hakuho gives away 95% of his losses.
When Tochiohzan beat Hakuho last year at the Aki basho, did Hakuho seek him out
prior to Kyushu and rough him up? No. Did Hakuho do that to Aminishiki,
Toyonoshima, Goeido, or Toyohibiki after the Natsu basho. No, no, no, and no.
Did Hakuho seek out Kisenosato, Kotooshu, or Kakuryu after those Ozeki felled
the Yokozuna last year? Nope. And the reason Hakuho hasn't roughed anyone up in
keiko for such a long time is because no one has beaten him legitimately until
Myogiryu did it last basho. I guess you could call that a second indicator as to
whether or not a Hakuho loss is legitimate with the first indicator of course
being that we told you so on Sumotalk. As for the Haru basho, Hakuho isn't
desperate to win it, but I don't believe the Association will allow Harumafuji
to win it, and so Kublai should back into the yusho with a 13-2 record.
Yokozuna Harumafuji has been complaining a bit about the cold weather in Osaka,
and then I read in a few other news articles where he said he's experiencing
pain in his feet. Both of those are just excuses to provide a storyline when
Harumafuji doesn't fulfill his 15-0 potential in Osaka. I would be shocked if
Harumafuji took the yusho in Osaka this year...not because he can't do it, but I
really think he needs to cool down a bit if yaknowwhuddahmean. I see him
finishing with 11-12 wins this basho and assuming the role of a spoiler down the
stretch (i.e. if Hakuho needs that final loss on senshuraku to give someone else
a chance, HowDo will step up).
In the Ozeki ranks, Kisenosato should maintain the top seat with cooperation
from others including his fellow foreign Ozeki. Look for Kisenosato to hover
again right around that 11-12 win total, which is the best he can do. Kotooshu
and Kakuryu will both flirt with double-digit wins, but I don't see a breakout
from either of these two guys. As for Kotoshogiku, dude's D-O-N-E. Oh, he'll
last another year or two in the same vein as prior lame duck Ozeki, but when you can't
legitimately win eight with this sorry banzuke, you're the second coming of
It will be interesting to see how Baruto's failed attempt to regain the Ozeki
rank in January will affect him. Make no mistake, he's the leading candidate to
become the sport's next Ozeki in terms of ability, but I don't think the
Estonian has the drive to do it again. I'm not exactly sure what the pay
difference is between Ozeki and Sekiwake, but I'm sure as hell that a Sekiwake
salary would put him well into the top 1% of wage earners in Estonia, so look
for Baruto to continue to milk the system and collect that caish on his way to 9
or 10 wins. As for Goeido, I don't think he can handle the pressure that the
Sumo Association is heaping upon him. I kinda feel sorry for the guy in the same
way that we saw Kisenosato struggle mentally when he was touted as the next.
Part of it has to be that these guys don't want to be frauds; yet, when Kakuryu
mysteriously charges high with his hands of the back of Goeido's head every
basho giving him the easy win, you've got to take what's given. With all of the
external factors pointing in Goeido's favor, I see the dude winning about 10,
but it won't feel like a double-digit performance from the sanyaku, sorta how
Harumafuji's last three yusho over four basho doesn't feel like greatness.
Komusubi Tochiohzan and Aminishiki are about as good as we've got to fill out
that rank, and both of them should flirt with kachi-koshi.
In the Maegashira ranks, I'm geeked to see Takayasu at M1 and Chiyotairyu at M2.
Takayasu's rise this high hasn't been artificial, and I've really enjoyed
watching him try and figure out the Maegashira ranks. He's young enough and
strong enough to win eight at the this level, but the key will be his mental
state. If he goes out and looks to dictate the pace in his bouts, he will be
just fine; but, if he goes out and looks intimidated, he'll get his ass kicked.
Same goes for Chiyotairyu who is definitely weaker mentally than Takayasu. In
Osaka, Hakuho actually paid Chiyotairyu a visit for keiko, and that's a sign
that the Yokozuna's got his eye on the guy. Did Hakuho visit Shohozan? Did he
even visit Takayasu? No. But he did take the time to single out Chiyotairyu.
Hopefully Kokonoe-oyakata uses that to instill confidence in the kid because of
all the Japanese rikishi in the division, Chiyotairyu has the most potential. He
ended up going 14-3 against the Yokozuna, and in those three wins, he blasted
Hakuho back from the tachi-ai and pushed him out in short order. I don't know of
any other rikishi on the banzuke that can do that, so let's hope that
Chiyotairyu unleashes the beating stick in Osaka. I see Takayasu finishing with
7-8 wins while Chiyotairyu won't quite be ready mentally for the jo'i heat
struggling to win about six.
Myogiryu also checks in at M2, and remember when he was a Sekiwake mainstay last
year? Dude either bought that run or he's suffered some kind of injury, but I
haven't read any place that he's been dinged up. Such a curious figure in the
sport right now, but we all know his potential. He's got the best chance of
anyone to regain a sanyaku berth.
Speaking of buying sanyaku runs, what say ye about M5 Shohozan? Talk about a guy
who has fallen off the jo'i map with a glorious thud. I do like Kaisei a notch
below in the M5 rank. He's been so close fighting among the jo'i, so now that
he's safely outside of the top 16, I think he's posed for a good basho.
I don't have any comments for other Maegashira rikishi until we get clear down
to Masunoyama at M12. Dude better be careful at this level because when you're
one of the first two Heisei-born Makuuchi rikishi (Takayasu is the other), you
don't want to get caught in the flotsam and jetsam that is the lower Makuuchi
and upper Juryo ranks. The kid's gotta prove his worth this basho.
M13 Tochinowaka sure fizzled out fast after a decent start in January. Something
tells me we've seen his best shot already.
It's good to see M14 Chiyonokuni back in the division after a hot Makuuchi start
a year ago. An injury sent him back down to Juryo, and while he did pop his head
back up whack-a-mole style in Kyushu, he was whacked right back down to Juryo.
The potential is there with this kid, but someone with such a small stature
can't afford injuries.
It's always nice to see newcomers to the division, but we've got a coupla duds
in M15 Sotairyu and M16 Oiwato. When you read guys' profiles and they include
marks for being one of the slowest to reach the division, it excites me about as
much as getting blood drawn.
I hope that I am pleasantly surprised in Osaka and that we are treated to
well-fought, straight-up sumo, but I think the Sumo Association is ready to
attempt another shift in power towards the domestic rikishi. Here are my basho
Yusho: Hakuho (13-2)