Breathing Down Kisenosato’s Neck
Sumo fans have been pleasantly surprised to see an old friend return to the dohyo in Osaka. None other than a ferocious competitor of massive strength and stature, Ozeki Terunofuji.
Terunofuji is not a newcomer to the sport, but what has been missing is the form, power, strength and sheer offensive focus that propelled him from rank-and-file into an Ozeki slot in mid 2015. This has been due to a series of injuries to his legs and his back, that had left him a ridiculous shell of his former self. For a time during his meteoric ascent in rank, some rikishi were actually worried about facing him, as he had a habit of mangling his opponents (Terunofuji’s Kaiju-Mode).
All of that seems to be back, at least for one basho. Looking back from day 12, it’s clear that Terunofuji was being groomed this entire basho as the spoiler, the sharp tool that could be used to derail upper ranked rikishi marching towards yusho. Today, it was Endo’s turn to face the Kaiju, and while Endo put up a glorious effort, Terunofuji has his mind fixed at bypassing Kisenosato, and once again hosting the Emperor’s Cup in victory.
Endo quickly established advantage in the match, and early had Terunofuji’s heels on the tawara, hip pumping to force to big Ozeki out. But Terunofuji rallied, picked up Endo and marched him to the center of the dohyo. Having rendered his opponent helpless, Terunofuji belly flopped onto a supine Endo, crushing him. The kimarite is recorded as Abisetaoshi (backward force down).
The final three days will Terunofuji fight 2 Yokozuna: Kisenosato and Kakuryu, and it would be my guess that Kisenosato will come day 15. At this point, the only rikishi who has a chance of derailing a Kisenosato yusho is Terunofuji, and the NSK will likely play this for all it’s worth.