Still Struggling To Stay Healthy.
Sumo fans were heartened by Kakuryu’s masterful win at the Kyushu basho. At last he was looking strong, mobile and fit – after many tournaments of less than Yokozuna performance. Tachiai had hoped that this was a dawning of a new era for Kakuryu, and that we could hope to see him contend and dominate in tournaments to come. Heading into Hatsu, we were even wondering if he might be able to turn in back-to-back yusho.
Kakuryu seemed to get off to a healthy start, winning his first three matches. But on day 4, he faced Mitakeumi in the final match of the day, and lost. Like many of Kakuryu’s matches, it was highly reactive. Kakuryu seems to have a strategy of getting his opponent moving and coaxes them into making mistakes that he can then exploit. The risk of this is that Kakuryu is frequently moving backwards while he is doing this, and a stable opponent, like Mitakeumi, can just keep him headed out.
This loss on day 4 was the start of a streak of losses across the first 10 days of Hatsu, culminating with his withdrawal on day 11, claiming knee and back pain.
Clearly whatever problems Yokozuna Kakuryu has, he is in a tight situation. It seems that his body is unable to support his sumo now, and short of some kind of miraculous recovery or medical intervention, Kakuryu is likely to face an increasing amount of discussion about retirement. When he is healthy, Kakuryu is an important player in sumo, and brings a unique and challenging style to the dohyo. When he is injured he dispenses kinboshi, and worries the fans.
Tachiai sincerely hopes that Yokozuna Kakuryu can return to health, and provide worthy competition for next month’s Heru basho in Osaka.