Everyone Is Walking Wounded
Since the tragic bout in Nagoya where Hakuho broke his toe (which required surgery), the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps have suffered an endless cycle of injury. With the secretive nature of injury reporting, it is difficult to tell how damaged these top rikishi are, but we have seen (at a minimum)
- Hakuho – Left leg damage, surgical repair to toes and knees
- Harumafuji – Persistent problems with ankles and elbows
- Kakuryu – Recurring lower back pain and unspecified injury
- Kiseonsato – Ruptured pectoral muscle
- Goeido – Shattered ankle requiring reconstructive surgery
- Terunofuji – Persistent knee problems and pain
Each of these rikishi have been among the elite of a very difficult and competitive sport, but over time injuries only partially healed or completely ignored have degraded their performance to the point that each basho, fans are left to hope that at least two top ranked men survive to battle the final day.
As we have speculated in prior posts, it is clear that some of these stars of sumo will be leaving the dohyo in the near future, barring some significant medical intervention. Each of them (save perhaps Kisenosato) is a shadow of their former self on most days. For example, Terunofuji’s performance in Osaka was thrilling, and fans largely rejoyced to see him execute his amazing sumo once more. But it should be noted that it was an exception to the past few years, where Terunofuji has limped along, usually barely scraping by.
There are some indication coming from pre-basho practice that Hakuho may be in fairly good form, and we may see another basho of the Michael Jordan of sumo. Fans of one of the greatest man to ever step on the dohyo are all praying we can see him in top for at least one more time. But it’s very sad that for all of the top men of sumo, we now expect all of these stars to be in less than peak performance.
Though we saw a new Yokozuna crowned in January, the team at Tachiai still think we are on the cusp of a “changing of the guard” in Sumo.