On the heels of reports of Harumafuji’s pending elbow surgery, there is also news about Ozeki Terunofuji. Terunofuji has suffered increasing problems with his knees, and underwent corrective surgery in June. It was likely too soon to place his newly repaired knees under competitive stress, but the Ozeki attempted to compete in Nagoya anyhow.
Now it is reported that the knee surgery did not provide relief, and he is weighing his options. One option, obviously, is to return to surgery and attempt additional corrections. The second is the Japanese favorite of letting it “heal naturally” and hoping for the best. If he returns to surgery, he is likely to be prevented from competing in the Aki basho. He is already carrying the probationary “kadoban” tag, and missing Aki would reduce his rank to Sekiwake, with a one time chance to reclaim his Ozeki rank with 10 wins. For the next 6 weeks, Terunofuji is sitting out the summer Jungyo tour along with stable mate Harumafuji.
This would represent a huge but dramatic gamble. A healthy Terunofuji is entirely capable of 10 wins or more, but if he is unable to regain full use of that knee, his career might be more or less finished anyhow. The crew at Tachiai deeply love that big kaiju, and sincerely hope that he is able to recover and excel once more.
8 thoughts on “Ozeki Terunofuji Facing Medical Challenge”
Awww no… he’s absolutely my favorite and I was hoping that by being a good boy and going nyuin early he would be good as new for Aki. He shouldn’t face retirement at such an early age and such a brilliant talent. Damn those fragile joints. Medical professionals, I want my man repaired!
Ok, I’ll be that guy: I actually don’t like Terunofuji at all. He’s a WWF heel as far as I’m concerned. Bleh.
That out of the way, he’s a great wrestler who can and sometimes does make things very interesting at the basho. The sport would be poorer without him. Hope he’s able to get healed up.
Even with bum knees he’d probably be able to spend the next five years essentially replicating Ichinojo’s current level of results at a minimum (if he wants to), so it’s not like Terunofuji’s set to be forced into retirement anytime soon if he drops from ozeki. Just look at how long Konishiki managed to hang on as a maegashira even though he was already close to being a complete wreck at the time he lost his ozeki rank. Guys as talented as Terunofuji usually have ways to operate at permanently diminished physical capacity and still be sufficiently successful to keep making a living in sumo. Whether that’s something he’ll find desirable is a different matter, of course.
I don’t expect him to go kyujo in September. I, also, expect the Ichinojo-like lumbering to 8 wins, rinse, repeat for 5 years. I had hoped he’d have sat out July AND September to come back fresh in November but I have no sense about what kind of pressure these guys are under…from themselves or from the stables, peers, NSK, sponsors, fans…
Let it be known this fan wants healthy sumo wrestlers. If it takes demotion, I’m fine with it. When it comes to kenshokin, are there rules against kenshokin for Juryo wrestlers? I noticed that when Endo was demoted from injury, his kenshokin dried up. I would hope sponsors would support wrestlers who take the Tochinoshin route back to competitiveness.
The difference in performance levels between a healthy Terunofuji and a hurt Terunofuji is amazing. He’s probably going to be ok for a while competing hurt, but I don’t really think he has Ozeki level sumo when he’s hurt.
We would much rather see him vigorous and strong, as when he is in that state, he can be a real challenge for anyone, including Hakuho. Healthy I believe he is yusho capable, and that would make me very happy indeed.
I did mean the whole package of Ichinojo’s results though…not just lumbering to 8 wins, but doing so as a mid-maegashira. That’s what I think Terunofuji can probably sustain no matter what. It’s true that there’s been a major difference between his good and bad tournaments as ozeki, but I have a feeling that things would be different without the ozeki rank. For an ozeki it’s 8 wins or bust, and they prepare accordingly. For an ailing maegashira it can be a successful basho if he somehow drags himself to a 5-10 record while doing low-risk sumo (and then come back in better shape the next time), and I suspect that impacts a rikishi’s entire approach to a tournament. So, like many rikishi I suspect a perpetually hurting Terunofuji would simply end up yo-yoing up and down the maegashira ranks, not totally fall off the cliff.
Not that I’m particularly keen on seeing that scenario play out, of course. I’d much rather see him get his knee issues fixed (if possible) and go back to competing for championships.
It would be sad to watch indeed. I mean, it’s one thing for a 30-something guy to be too battered to continue to perform as he used to and then hang around (like Aminishiki), and it’s a different thing for a brilliant 25 years old to become a hairless Samson. And by the way, he doesn’t seem like the kind of Ozeki who settles for a kachi-koshi. I think a situation like that would frustrate him – perhaps to the extent of seeking a different career while he is still unburdened with a wife and kids.
Terunofuji is the best wrestler in the sport under the age of 30 and there is no close second. For the last two years he has been trying to “heal naturally” and it hasn’t worked. Now he’s had surgery and it hasn’t worked.
The one thing he hasn’t tried is taking a year out and coming back in jonokuchi.