Hatsu Story 2 – A Japanese Yokozuna

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Two Candidates: Both Long-Shots

It has been more than a decade since a Japanese born sumotori achieved Yokozuna status. With each year that goes by, the cultural desire to see a native Yokozuna seems to grow. In recent years, two candidates have emerged at having a chance of promotion, but both of them have been unable to maintain the level of performance needed to close the deal.

Kisenosato – He is consistently a top performing Ozeki, but he has yet to actually win a tournament. His sumo technique is very strong, but is not usually varied, and the means to defeat him are known, and are consistently exploited by Harumafuji and Hakuho. In the multiple times the YDC has considered Kisenosato for promotion, the criteria of a tournament win is underscored as his remaining barrier to promotion. Yet it still eludes him. Even with Hakuho injured during Aki, Kisenosato could not gather his spirit and overcome his own distractions to win.

Goeido – Where Kisenosato has been Mr consistency, Goeido is hit or miss. In fact, he has frequently be kadoban since his promotion to Ozeki. You cannot tell from day to day in a tournament which version of Goeido will mount the dohyo. The Aki version of Goeido was an over-the-top sumo machine, unstoppable in any way and totally committed to victory. It was that version of Goeido that the YDC declared a worthy candidate, if he can win a second Yusho. His performance in Kyushu was good, and I think marred by a couple of questionable calls by the Shimpan.

Should either of these two win the Hatsu basho, it would be down to the YDC to decide, at least publicly, what to do about the win. The Japanese public are eager for a native, non-Mongolian Yokozuna, but the committee is wary of promoting an Ozeki that is not going to deliver the absolute top level of performance, tournament after tournament.

Hatsu Story 1 – The Return of Osunaarashi

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Egyptian Sumotori Returns to Upper Division

Osunaarashi had a rough 2016. After being a mainstay of Makuuchi for several years, Osunaarashi sat out Hatsu last year with injuries, after going kyung at the end of the the 2015 Kyushu tournament. As a result he was demoted down to Juryo for the Osaka tournament. He charged back hard, winning the Juryo championship, and a prompt return to the upper ranks.

Then Osunaarashi sat out with injuries again for Nagoya, and was again demoted to Juryo. He continued to struggle with injuries, and has not had a full attendance for either of the Aki 2016 or Kyushu 2016 tournaments.

In spite of his winning record in Kyushu, it seemed unlikely that he would make much of a rise from is Kyushu Juryo 6 ranking. But wonders and surprises were rolled into the Christmas Banzuke announcement. In spite of the odds, Osunaarashi has been given a spot at the very bottom of Makuuchi.

Can he withstand the punishment of the top division? Will he be able to stay healthy and finish the tournament? We look forward to seeing the big Egyptian give it his all.

Hatsu Banzuke Live!

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It’s not just Christmas day in the west, it’s also the day we get the first look at the ranking sheet for the highly anticipated January tournament in Tokyo.

http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnHonbashoBanzuke

Notable fun elements:

  • Kisenosato back at Ozeki 1E, after Goeido’s Shimpan fueled collapse
  • Shodai gets his turn at Sekiwake, as many anticipated
  • Takayasu hangs onto Sanyaku while Tochinoshin rises to join him as Komusubi
  • Mitakeumi holds tough at Maegashira 1, I was expecting a more dramatic demotion for him
  • Ishiura levitates to Maegashira 9
  • Osunaarashi the Egyptian returns to the upper division at Maegashira 16.  Given his devotion to sumo no matter what the cost, this is a welcome reward to see him once again in Makuuchi.

January Basho – Just Around The Corner

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While the winter Jungyo works to wrap up this week, sumo fans in Okinawa prepare for a special mini tournament in the next few days in Ginowan. It’s sort of a Jungyo stop with a bunch of fun extras added.

Better yet – can you believe that we are less than two weeks away from the January Basho banzuke being release the day after Christmas? Sumo-Santa will deliver this year, boys and girls. With all of the action in Kyushu, the banzuke for Hatsu will be quite the shuffle.

As always, Tachiai will be ramping up coverage as we begin anticipating the action in Tokyo starting Sunday January 8th. That’s a bit more than 3 weeks away.