All Columns written by Mike Wesemann
for the Kyushu Basho 2002
This basho had two polar opposite storylines going on at the same
time. The positive thread made me
realize I was witnessing a historical run by an under-sized rikishi, while the
negative thread had me disgusted with the attitudes of the rikishi and the
general direction the sport is heading.
Did the positive out weigh the negative? We'll find out in January.
I'll start with the positive, which is of course Asashoryu's record run
to the yusho. Not only was it his first
yusho, but he accomplished some feats this year and this basho that have only
been obtained by past rikishi who were eventually crowned Yokozuna. Some of his outstanding accomplishments
* Winning his first 8 bouts for three consecutive basho
* Obtaining the Makuuchi yusho in just 24 tournaments (only Yokozuna
Takanohana has done it as fast)
* Winning the highest number of bouts for this year (66 wins) becoming
the first non-Yokozuna to do it in ten years
Coincidentally, the major storyline heading into the Hatsu basho in
January is whether or not Asashoryu can pull off a consecutive yusho, thus
guaranteeing promotion to Yokozuna and cementing his spot in sumo history. Will Asashoryu be promoted to Yokozuna? I think it's inevitable. Can he repeat in January? It's highly probable. Normally, I wouldn't be so convinced that he
could put together two yusho in a row so early in his career; but the field may
be weakened in January, so he has to be the favorite going in. Of all the positives going for him, I have
yet to see Asashoryu dominate his fellow Ozeki and the Yokozuna in week two of
a basho. I attribute that to his lack
of experience and size, but the day will come when the fans will throw their
zabuton after Asashoryu losses because they will be so rare. His week two opponents may not even be an
issue for the Hatsu basho, however.
Here is a breakdown where all the top rikishi stand for next basho:
Yokozuna Musashimaru -- already declared he will sit the Hatsu basho
out in order to rehabilitate his wrist.
Yokozuna Takanohana -- Highly questionable. Because of Taka's popularity and ability to generate ticket
sales, we won't know if he'll sit the Hatsu basho out until the 11th hour. About 10 days prior to the Hatsu basho,
reports will begin to come in regarding the rikishi's practice sessions. Takanohana's participation will be a good
indicator of where he stands. Even if
Taka does compete in January, he will not be close to 100%.
Ozeki Kaio -- Highly questionable.
Kaio tore the bicep in his right arm during Kyushu. Medical reports indicated he would need
about three months to rehabilitate the injury.
Even if Kaio does compete in January, he will not have had the
opportunity to practice at full strength.
Ozeki Chiyotaikai -- Questionable.
Chiyo injured his triceps (at least that's what he says) during the
Kyushu basho, and the doctors estimated 2-3 months of rehabilitation.
Ozeki Musoyama -- Highly questionable.
On senshuraku in Kyushu, Musoyama appeared to have dislocated his
shoulder in his loss to Asashoryu. This
has been a recurring problem that has hampered Musoyama's career. Even if Musoyama does compete in January, he
will be...well...Musoyama, which means unthreatening.
Ozeki Tochiazuma -- Highly probable.
Tochiazuma was less than impressive in Kyushu as he was coming off a
major injury. He should have the ring
rust out of his system, but Tochi was totally dominated by both Ozeki in
Sekiwake Kotomitsuki -- Kotomitsuki barely held on to his Sekiwake rank
with some cheap sidestepping in his later bouts in Kyushu, but he had a
Sekiwake Takanowaka -- Takanowaka, who will be promoted to Sekiwake for
January, should continue his energetic fighting; however, don't be fooled by
his 11-4 record in Kyushu. All of his
wins over rikishi ranked Sekiwake or higher for Kyushu were obtained by using
pull-down techniques except for his default win over Musashimaru and uwate-nage
win over the struggling Tochiazuma on day 3.
Who is going to step up and challenge Asashoryu? I don't see anybody up to the task. One of Asa's most impressive traits is he
doesn't choke. He didn't choke when he
was up for ozeki promotion, he didn't choke as a new Ozeki, and he certainly
didn't choke as a sophomore Ozeki. How
many other rikishi can say the same?
The bottom line is this: Asa will face a weak field in January, and he
should yusho again. If he does win in
January, will his subsequent promotion to Yokozuna be undeserved? Premature maybe, but definitely
deserved. If winning two basho over
weak fields was so easy, why haven't other rikishi stepped up as well? I'll be rooting for Asashoryu because his
overall sumo, his bulldog attitude, and his fighting spirit are downright
Now that my praise for Asashoryu is finished, there is one other
rikishi whom I think deserves special mention: Tosanoumi. Fighting from the Maegashira 1 rank,
Tosanoumi gave us some of the most memorable bouts this basho. He backs down from nobody, which is rare
during these tachi-ai henka happy times.
Chiyotaikai, Tochiazuma, Kotomitsuki, and Takanowaka--I'm talking to
you. While Tosanoumi does win some
bouts with pull down tactics, he will hit you straight up on the tachi-ai...every
time. Many of Tosa's losses are by
rikishi sidestepping him at the tachi-ai because they don't want to nut up and
challenge his initial charge. Tosanoumi
went 8-7 and will be rewarded with a deserved promotion to Komusubi for next
basho. It's easy to see why he is
Kenji's favorite active rikishi.
Another noteworthy performance was produced by Takanowaka. Though I am critical of his hiki (pull down)
habits, winning 11 bouts from the Komusubi position is rare. I have kept my eye on Takanowaka since
Makushita when I noticed him as an undersized rikishi with surprising strength
when fighting at the belt. I love his
sumo when he bellies up (mune wo awaseru) to his opponents instead of trying to
pull them down. 11 wins from the
Komusubi rank means that he's completed his first step towards Ozeki
promotion. He needs to average 11 wins
over his next two basho to secure the promotion, but he can do it. He should be one of the major players for
January. His real test will be in
March, however, when I expect everyone back at full strength.
Takanonami fighting from the M1 position deserves honorable mention
with his 10-5 record. Here is a rikishi
with all the potential in the world to be great, but he just lacks any
aggression. This former Ozeki can
seriously challenge for the rank again if he puts his mind to it. Takanonami should be 10-5 every basho in my
opinion. His size and counter tactics
are the best in the sport right now. He
should jump right over Komusubi and be ranked as a Sekiwake with Kotomitsuki
and Takanowaka for next basho. One note
though, stop playing mind games with your opponents by delaying your tachi-ai
(initial charge). Put your fist down
and fight on the first try. How many
times do we need to see your opponents literally fall forward while waiting for
you to go?
As far as breaking down performances by rank, here's some brief
I think Yokozuna Takanohana, who sat this tournament out from the
beginning, is ready for retirement.
It's my opinion that the Sumo Kyokai wants to keep him around to ensure
at least one Japanese Yokozuna.
Yokozuna Musashimaru looked good the first few days, but I thought it
coincidental how his wrist injury flared up when he suffered his first
loss. Maru is sitting out the
tournament in January, but I'm sure he'll pick up his usual three yusho next
Ozeki Kaio suffered his injury so early this basho that it was hard to
tell what kind of condition he was in.
His two wins were over decent opponents, though, in Takanowaka and
Ozeki Chiyotaikai just quit in my opinion. Maybe his triceps was bothering him, but it sure didn't look that
way as he pulled down Tosanoumi--twice.
Just when I get excited about Chiyotaikai, he lays an egg.
Ozeki Musoyama will forever leave us with the question "what
if?" Musoyama looked good for most
of the basho, but too many of his losses where the result of lack of
concentration. When Musoyama first
emerged on the Makuuchi scene, I along with much of the Japanese media thought
he was a surefire Yokozuna. His
strength and sumo are worthy of a Yokozuna, but the ever-important mental
toughness is lacking.
Ozeki Tochiazuma is still breathing a sigh of relief after barely
pulling out his 8 wins to stave off demotion.
Call it luck having the top four rikishi sitting out, and most everyone
else looking just awful this basho.
Remember, Tochiazuma is the defending Hatsu basho champion, so we'll see
how he fares in his hometown Tokyo.
Sekiwake Wakanosato looked as down as I've ever seen him. He almost managed a majority of wins this
basho, but how could you not with everyone sitting out? He'll have a fresh start in January in
making another run to Ozeki promotion.
Sekiwake Kotomitsuki barely achieved 8 wins to hold on to his
rank. This former champion may be
following Kaio's footsteps: look fantastic one basho, but terrible the next.
Komusubi Kyokutenho barely missed a kachi-koshi going 7-8. Even as I write this, I can't recall a
single bout of his. Let's just say his
performance this basho was forgettable.
Well, it was a down year for the sport of sumo. Ticket sales to the tournaments are bearing
this out. It used to be that a
non-sellout was big news, but these days there just aren't enough rikishi generating
any excitement. While I'll never tire
of Takamisakari's antics, I probably won't be willing to fork out 8,000 -
10,000 yen a pop to sit in a cramped seat and watch it. The people I feel most sorry for are the
fans in the outskirts of Kyushu who have eagerly waited for the sumo exhibition
tours set to begin the day after the Kyushu basho. Problem is, there won't be enough rikishi competing to give them
their money's worth. There's no
question that the sport needs a healthy Takanohana. The emotion he inspired in September was unforgettable. Perhaps, Asashoryu can take his place in the
years to come, but we'll have to cross our fingers and see.
November 22, 2002 -- Day 13 was a much-needed bright day for the Kyushu
basho as Asashoryu clinched his first Makuuchi divisional yusho. It was quite an emotional victory not only
for the sophomore Ozeki, but for his mentor Takasago oyakata, the entire
country of Mongolia, and this columnist as well (the Barometer theory remains
alive and kicking after a major scare).
Asashoryu obtained the coveted Makuuchi yusho after just 24 basho (four
years) in the sport. This ties the mark
set by current Yokozuna Takanohana.
It's no coincidence that Asashoryu is accomplishing feats that have
previously been attained only by those who eventually made it to the sport’s
highest rank. Asa's got his first shot
at Yokozuna next basho. If he wins
again in January, the promotion is his.
I don't foresee a strong field waiting for him next basho as Musashimaru
has already withdrawn, and several other top guns have injuries requiring
several months of rehab.
Asa's victory today wasn't easy, however, as Wakanosato gave him a huge
run for his money. Wakanosato took the
advantage from the tachi-ai with a firm inner-grip (shitate). Asa eventually got his own inner grip on
Wakanosato's belt to bring the rikishi into the migi-yotsu position, but
Wakanosato seemed to have the better leverage.
Asashoryu twice attempted the shitate-nage throw, which is very
dangerous if unsuccessful because it leaves you on one foot having expended a
great deal of energy. Wakanosato drove
Asashoryu to the edge of the ring both times, however, Asashoryu refused to be
forced out. He was finally able to get
Wakanosato back into the middle of the ring and enough of an offensive postion
to trip the Sekiwake over.
Asashoryu's mentor, Takasago-oyakata (moto-Asashio), was very
emotional. He happened to be in the
broadcast booth for NHK, so there were ample close-up shots of the shisho. There's not a prouder moment for a stable
master than to have a rikishi you've raised from the beginning stand in the
winner's circle. Well maybe one greater
moment--to have your apprentice be crowned Yokozuna. Asashoryu has an excellent shot at the greatest honor in two
months. Speaking of pride, the entire
Mongolian nation is probably on holiday for the next few days. Asashoryu received a huge reception in his home
country after his promotion to Ozeki, so you can imagine what's in store for
his next trip home
Perhaps, yours truly was the most relieved by today's result, as a loss
to Wakanosato today would have disproved the Barometer theory. For review, Wakanosato is nicknamed the
Barometer because he's the perfect measuring stick in the sanyaku. Simply put, if you lose to Wakanosato,
you're not fighting well enough to yusho.
Since Asashoryu's yusho was a foregone conclusion, a loss to the
Barometer would have been disastrous.
In other bouts, Musoyama easily toppled fellow-ozeki Tochiazuma. Musoyama seemed to be the one rikishi this
basho primed to step up and challenge Asashoryu; however, careless losses here
and there abolished any yusho hopes. In
a battle of two 8-4 former Ozeki, Dejima forced out Takanonami to earn his 9th
victory and a possible special prize.
Kenji correctly picked Asashoryu to yusho--will Dejima make him look
even better by winning the Kantosho prize?
Could be. Takanowaka also picked
up his important 9th win by easily defeating Takamisakari. Takanowaka may also be in line for a special
prize to go along with his certain promotion to Sekiwake for the next
basho. Tosanoumi kept his kachi-koshi
hopes alive by defeating Tochinonada in a battle of two fierce competitors.
With the yusho determined, the remaining bouts are still relevant for
those rikishi who are near eight wins.
Eight wins guarantees a promotion for next basho, whereas eight losses
clinches a demotion. The battle among
the three Ozeki should be decent.
Asashoryu should easily handle Tochiazuma on day 14 (if he isn't too
hung over), and the most anticipated match left will by on senshuraku when
Asashoryu takes on Musoyama.
Kotomitsuki and Tosanoumi will also be worth watching as their backs are
up against the wall with seven losses apiece.
Some of the best matches on day 15 will be those rikishi who both have
November 20, 2002 -- What an ugly day of sumo. Can anything go right this basho? Asashoryu suffered his first loss today, and
fellow Ozeki Musoyama reassured us that he is still capable of whiffing on his
final push out of the ring only to end up flat on his stomach. If this website were more hi-tech, the head
in my picture would be shaking back and forth in disbelief. The third Ozeki, Tochiazuma, did win
although he jumped out of the way of 3-7 Maegashira Gojoro to get it.
Asashoryu, who is still in a commanding position to pick up his first
yusho, came out tentatively against the larger Tochinonada. It seemed as if he couldn't make up his mind
whether or not to go for the belt or get in a shoving match with the #6
Maegashira. During this indecision,
Tochinonada pounced with a few powerful thrusts and easily pushed Asa out of
the ring making the Ozeki look bad in the process. Losing to Tochinonada is nothing to be ashamed about as he
frequently topples the giants; however, Asashoryu was completely lackluster
after his previous 10 days of outstanding sumo. Maybe even Asashoryu is getting bored.
While Ozeki Tochiazuma did manage a win after Asa went down, he
resorted to the unforgivable tachi-ai henka (side steeping opponent's initial
charge) to get it. Come on Tochiazuma,
I know you're kadoban and need all the wins you can get, but jumping out of the
way of Gojoro?!? Not wanting to face
Tosanoumi straight up is one thing, but side-stepping a 3-7 M4 is the last
thing I need to see an Ozeki doing. The
victory did give Tochiazuma his 6th straight victory to put him at 7-4. He needs just one more win to avoid
Asashoryu's loss should have given Musoyama a little more incentive to
win because it put him back in the yusho race; however, after dominating
Kyokushuzan for the whole bout he failed to finish off the Mongolian and ended
up flat on his stomach at the edge of the ring. Good-bye yusho. This
happens at least once a basho and gives Musoyama costly losses that derail his
runs at the yusho. The bout was fitting
as it capped off an ugly day of sumo where nobody seemed to shine.
In the bout between the two struggling Sekiwake, Wakanosato got his 5th
win when Kotomitsuki went for the hiki (pull down) technique mid-bout. As is usually the case, this ended up in
Wakanosato's easily driving his counterpart out of the ring. Perhaps Kotomitsuki didn't want to be out
done by both Komusubi who each resorted to the hiki during their bouts as well,
which subsequently resulted in their losses.
Tosanoumi easily forced out Kyokutenho, while the mammoth Miyabiyama
finished off Takanowaka. Takanowaka's
loss hurts because not only does it take him out of the yusho race, but it
hurts his chances of being awarded the Fighting Spirit prize. Takanowaka still has an impressive 7-4
record and should win one more to secure promotion to Sekiwake for next basho.
The veteran Akinoshima was driven out by Dejima to suffer his third
loss. While a run at the yusho for him
is highly improbable, he is only two losses back. Both rikishi now stand at a respectable 8-3. Takanonami is also at 8-3 after luring
Takamisakari into the same trap that everyone else falls into. Add Asashoryu into the mix, and
unbelievably, these are the only four rikishi who have secured a kachikoshi.
So, after 11 days the yusho race shapes up with Asashoryu leading the pack at
10-1 and Dejima, Takanonami, and Akinoshima hanging on with 8-3 records.
Hopefully, the final four days will provide more excitement. The Ozeki will begin facing each other from
day 13 with the Sekiwake also being thrown into the mix. The key bout from here on out is Asashoryu
vs. Wakanosato, which should occur on day 13.
Remember, you have to beat Wakanosato in order to be qualified for the
yusho (see Terms-->Barometer), so if Wakanosato pulls the upset, all hell
could break lose.
November 18, 2002 -- Am I mistaken, or is this exhibition tournament in
Kyushu not going so well? I am just
flabbergasted by the continued withdrawal of all the top rikishi from this
basho; the latest being Ozeki Chiyotaikai.
If this was election night and I was a CNN hack I'd call this basho
early in favor of Asashoryu and say "let's get the hell out of
here." I hope to see a little more
effort from everyone in 2003.
The only remaining question in my mind now is "can Asashoryu be
the first rikishi in eight years to go 15-0?" The answer to that is "who looks good enough to beat him
this basho?" Flat out nobody. NHK news displayed a graphic over the
weekend showing that Asashoryu has gone 8-0 the first week of the tournament
for the third basho in a row. The few
rikishi who have ever accomplished this feat in the past have all been crowned
Yokozuna. Currently, Asa leads the pack
at 9-0. There are two rikishi behind
him at 7-2, but are Takanonami and Akinoshima going to seriously challenge him
for this basho? For his last six bouts, instead of taking on the likes of
Takanohana and Chiyotaikai, he will be rewarded with more rank and filers than
normal--a group he has totally dominated this year, and a reeling sanyaku. But take NOTHING away from Asashoryu. His sumo has been sensational. One of the most important factors this basho
is he's finishing off his opponents in a matter of seconds. Saving up his energy for the final run could
be the key in his quest for a perfect basho, not to mention his first yusho. I think the yusho is a given at this point;
I'm just hoping to see him win out.
If Asashoryu does win, he will be up for promotion to Yokozuna. With all of these injuries occurring to the
top wrestlers, I don't think we can expect a strong field for the Hatsu basho
in January. I think Asashoryu has an
excellent shot to seal the deal and become the first Mongolian to be crowned
Yokozuna. If Asashoryu DOES make
Yokozuna, that puts a lot of pressure on Takanohana to perform as the only
Japanese Yokozuna. Nobody will ever
mention the fact in the mainstream press, but it will be a hard pill for the
Sumo Kyokai to swallow if Takanohana retires and the sport is left with two
foreign Yokozuna at the top. This could
provide for a major storyline in the next few basho to come.
As far as the day's bouts, Asashoryu was fantastic in his win over
Gojoro. It's not a question anymore of
"can he win?” but "how is he going to win today?". It's the only thing left to keep anyone
interested...that and Takamisakari. In
another bright spot, Tochiazuma held on to topple the Barometer (Wakanosato) to
seal his fourth win in a row. At 5-4
Tochiazuma looks assured of holding on to his Ozeki status. If he had the four top guns who have
withdrawn and Asashoryu left, I wouldn't be so sure; but this string of
withdrawals is exactly what the doctor ordered.
The third remaining Ozeki, Musoyama, fell into the same trap we've seen
Takanonami spring for years. When is
anybody going to figure it out?
Takanonami gives you the uwate, let's you drive him back to the tawara,
then he puts one foot on the tawara for leverage, wraps his arm over the top of
his opponents arm and catapults him out.
It was a costly loss for Musoyama as it gave him his third loss of the
basho and all but eliminated him from the race.
Both Sekiwake lost inching them one step closer to a deserved demotion
to Komusubi, and both Komusubi would have probably lost too if they didn't have
to fight each other. Kyokutenho came
out on top putting a big chink in Takanowaka's impressive run this basho. Takanowaka looked too rushed, and when he
resorted to the hiki maneuver to try and pull Kyokutenho down, his opponent
wasn't buying it and easily forced Takanowaka out.
Um, let's see here...I'm still trying to find something newsworthy to
write about...oh yeah, Takanonami deserves mention with his respectable 7-2
record so far. His two losses are to
Chiyotaikai and Asashoryu, so he's beating everyone he's supposed to. Takanonami has faced everyone ranked higher than
him except Takanowaka, whom he faces today.
Takanowaka's height may pose a problem, but if Takanonami can topple
him, his only other serious roadblock is fellow M1 Tosanoumi. If Takanonami could somehow manage to
maintain a perfect record here on out--highly unlikely--he has a slim chance of
running Asashoryu down.
The only other rikishi with a 7-2 mark is the old veteran Akinoshima
fighting to stay out of Juryo. I would
have been a little more excited about the former Sekiwake if he hadn't lost to
In reading over previous daily reports, it seems that this basho has
taken some crazy turns every other day.
Unfortunately, they have all been for the worse. Tune in to see what can go wrong in the next
few days. Until then, enjoy Asashoryu's
sumo along with the rest of the empty seats at the venue because it's been
The jobansen (first five days) are in the bag, and this basho is
beginning to take shape. Ozeki
Asashoryu leads the pack with a perfect 5-0 record; however, fellow Ozeki
Chiyotaikai and Musoyama are right on his heels as is Yokozuna Musashimaru all
with 4-1 records. I see the yusho
coming down to a battle among these four heavyweights. Hopefully, they can provide enough drama in
the end to offset the disappointing withdrawals of Takanohana and Kaio, and the
sub par performances being displayed by Tochiazuma and Wakanosato.
Starting at the top, Kenji's prediction of Asashoryu's first yusho is
looking more and more like a reality.
Not only is he off to a 5-0 start, but he has looked so solid in doing
it. While he hasn't faced anyone ranked
higher than Komusubi yet, he has toppled three rikishi with wins over his
fellow Ozeki. Asashoryu is keeping is
opponents directly in front of him and just overpowering them with his bulldog
sumo. He has a relatively big test on day 6 when he faces Maegashira 1
Takanonami, who is hot off his win over Musashimaru. While major props are due
for the sophomore Ozeki, he still needs to prove himself in week two--something
he failed to do last basho.
Musashimaru suffered his first loss on day five to Takanonami, the same
rikishi who beat him on day one of the last basho. Takanonami's speed, or Maru's lack thereof, was the difference as
Maru just couldn't keep up with his opponent.
Perhaps Musashimaru's bad wrist neutralized the coveted uwate (outer
grip) he had on Taka's belt from the tachi-ai.
We've seen this before from Maru, however, and he should be right in the
thick of things up to the end.
Two impressive rikishi up to this point have been Ozekis Chiyotaikai
and Musoyama. Both are 4-1, and both
suffered fluke losses when they were sidestepped at the tachi-ai. No one has yet to go toe-to-toe with either
one of these rikishi and beaten him. You can bet they both have Asashoryu in
their sites for week two. The other storylines going on have kept these two out
of the limelight, but they look for real.
One unfortunate storyline developing this basho is the struggling
performance of Ozeki Tochiazuma, who is coming off a major injury. Tochiazuma has lost three bouts in a row and
has not looked good doing it. Several
times he has had his opponents at the edge of the ring, but has been unable to
finish them off. The same eerie silence
that accompanied Taknohana's losses last basho exists after each of
Tochiazuma's losses in Kyushu. He is really going to have to dig down deep to
keep his Ozeki rank. At 1-4, he must go
7-3 the rest of the way to prevent his demotion. Don't put it past him, though, because all it takes is one big
win to get his confidence back, and Tochiazuma is a warrior.
As long as we're talking about disappointments, "where have you
gone, Wakanosato? A lonely nation turns its eyes to you." Let's hope our
Barometer is suffering from an unreported injury because he looks down right
As for noteworthy performances so far, Takanonami deserves mention at
4-1 with big wins over Yokozuna Musashimaru and Ozeki Tochiazuma, but we've
seen his act before: impressive record the first week followed up with a
magical disappearance in week two.
three days into this basho, and both Asashoryu and Musashimaru lead the pack at
3-0. Musashimaru has had a relatively
easy path so far; however, the Yokozuna's schedule gets tougher and tougher day
by day. It's still far too early to
tell anything at this point, but two troublesome stories are beginning to play
out in the Ozeki ranks.
The biggest news of the day was the injury to Ozeki Kaio, which
will probably force him to miss the rest of the tournament. Medical reports show that Kaio ruptured the
bicep in his upper right arm in his bout with Tosanoumi. It was apparent during the bout that
something was wrong as Kaio virtually gave up midway through the contest. Tosanoumi deserves his props, however, as he
had the Ozeki back peddling from the tachi-ai.
Kaio has still not officially announced that he will sit out the
remainder of the tournament; however, the doctors estimate three months for a
full recovery. This is perhaps a bigger
blow to the Kyushu fans than the 11th-hour withdrawal of Yokozuna Takanohana as
Kaio is the hometown favorite.
The other story regards Tochiazuma who suffered his second loss of
the tournament falling to Takanowaka. Tochiazuma is kadoban, which means if he
loses 8 or more bouts this basho, he will be demoted from Ozeki. Pre-basho reports were positive regarding
Tochi's condition; however, as Kenji mentioned after day one, it appears he
still doesn't have his "sumo-no-kan," or 6th sense in the ring. It's only going to get tougher for
Tochiazuma in the second week, but weren't we saying this same thing about
Takanohana last basho?
Chiyotaikai looks solid despite his early fluke loss to
Takanowaka. He can't afford any more
early losses, though, because the second week is going to be a huge test. Fellow Ozeki Musoyama suffered his first
loss to Kotomitsuki, and I predict he gets his second loss today against
Tosanoumi. Rounding out the Ozeki
ranks, Asashoryu looks as good as ever.
His counter-attack to defeat Tosanoumi on day 1 may be the most
memorable moment thus far.
In the Sekiwake ranks, Wakanosato (the Barometer) has all but ended
his quest for Ozeki with two uninspiring losses in the first three days. He looks unmotivated so far. His counterpart, Kotomitsuki, should play a
major role in the days to come when he faces the Ozeki and Yokozuna.
Other notable performances so far are Takanowaka, who has already
toppled two Ozeki; Tochinonada, who is 3-0 at Maegashira 6—a rank that may
exempt him from facing all of the big boys; and Aminishiki, who is also 3-0 and
on track for the Ginosho prize.
Finally, those who viewed NHK's telecast early Tuesday morning got
their first glimpse of Koto-oshu (see newsflashes
page), the newest and tallest rikishi to join the ranks. Koto-oshu showed brilliant technique in
defeating his opponent with the shitate-hineri move. Stay tuned to sumotalk.com as we will track Koto-oshu's rise up
November 4, 2002 -- I can't remember when I've ever been so excited
for a basho to start. I echo Kenji's
thoughts about the sentimentality of the Kyushu basho as this is where I personally
came in contact with the sport and rikishi themselves. That aside, the biggest reason to get
excited over Kyushu this year is the fact that everyone should be healthy. We've got a top-heavy Makuuchi rank that has
been unseen since Akebono and Wakanohana retired.
I'll start with the best of the best-the Yokozuna. Musashimaru comes in as the higher ranked
Yokozuna after his dominating victory over Takanohana on senshuraku last
basho. At the end of last basho, I felt
that Takanohana would take over the Higashi slot in Kyushu, but I'm not so sure
now. Reports in Japan have mentioned
that Takanohana has been practicing lightly, so I'm not convinced that he's
100%. Taka at 80-90% is still better
than anybody else EXCEPT fellow Yokozuna Musashimaru. Maru proved last basho that you have to be in top form to topple
him, so I'm picking Maru to prevail in Kyushu again. Maru definitely doesn't command the headlines, and there will be
so many other storylines heading into Kyushu, that I think Musashimaru will
lurk in the shadows with maybe one early loss and then show his prowess in the
final week. I know this is a rather
boring prediction, but I see a mirror of the last basho with the two Yokozuna
dueling it out on senshuraku for the yusho.
Maru wins again.
The Ozeki should be outstanding this basho. All eyes will be on Tochiazuma who is coming
off of a major injury. Early keiko
reports have mentioned that Tochiazuma is practicing as if he never got
injured. If he and the other Ozeki are
all in top condition, 13 wins guarantees the yusho, and 12-3 should be good
enough. Tochiazuma will probably be in
the spotlight for the first few bouts, but I suspect the Sumo Kyokai will not
overburden him with fellow sanyaku match-ups during that time.
Kaio will also receive major attention as Kyushu is home, and the
crowd will be behind him all the way.
Ironically, in the past Kaio has never lived up to the expectations
placed on him for the last basho of the year.
I don't see anything different for this basho, especially since Kaio
looked good last basho, and he rarely puts two solid basho together in a
row. Look for him though, to hand out
costly losses to the rikishi in the yusho hunt.
Asashoryu is the dark horse this basho. He is no longer shin-ozeki (new ozeki) and with his below average
performance during the final week of last basho, there are no expectations for
him in Kyushu. As much as I would like
to see Asashoryu holding the tenpai in the end, I still feel that he is about a
Chiyotaikai is a major player in the Makuuchi division, and I would
not be surprised to see him yusho. You
usually know with Chiyo in the first 5-6 days if he's on or if he's just taking
this basho off. I don't think
Chiyotaikai is mentally strong enough to be crowned the next Yokozuna at this
point. It seems that an early loss to a
rank-and-filer ruins him for the rest of the tournament.
Musoyama never performs well in Kyushu. Back in '94 when he was up for Ozeki promotion for the first
time, he proceeded to lose his first four bouts to no-names. I'll be happy if he can win 9 this time
We couldn't ask for two better Sekiwake than Wakanosato and
Kotomitsuki to mix things up in the sanyaku ranks. Both rikishi should become Ozeki some day, and you have to bring
your absolute best to beat them.
Kyokutenho and Takanowaka both come into Kyushu ranked as
Komusubi. These two rikishi have decent
all around sumo and nearly identical builds; however, they're still a step or
two short of avoiding that revolving door that will throw them back down into
Besides Dejima, I think we have the cream of the Maegashira crop
all in the upper ranks. I love
Tosanoumi in that number one slot because all of the elite have to face
him. Tosanoumi is famous for toppling
all of the big names and then evening things out by losing to the lower-ranked
Maegashira. I wouldn't be surprised to
see Tosanoumi get his 8 wins and move back up to Komusubi where he belongs.
Takanonami as the other number one Maegashira has also been
performing well as of late. He poses
problems to the elite as well, but you never know day to day which Takanonami
you're going to get-the former Ozeki or Kotonowaka's partner in crime.
Finally, a relative newcomer to Makuuchi in Hokutoriki will get his
first huge test at Maegashira 2. He
will probably face most of the elite, but this is where you have to get your
feet wet if you have any intentions of making the sanyaku some day.
Musashimaru gets his 13th yusho with a 13-2 record; Takanohana
settles for runner-up; Tosanoumi wins the Shukunsho
Nov. 9, 2002 (Update) – Since I published my pre-basho report,
Takanohana has withdrawn from the tournament, and reports reveal that the other
Yokozuna, Musashimaru, has a sore wrist.
Therefore, I’m changing my prediction line to:
Kaio wins his fourth yusho in front of the hometown crowd going
13-2; Kotomitsuki is runner-up at 12-3 putting him on track for ozeki promotion
next January; and Tosanoumi still gets the Shukunsho.
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