Day 5 – Wake Up and Smell The Intai

Harumafuji’s salto, day 5, Aki 2017

It seems the priest-gyoji somehow bungled his work in the consecration of the dohyo this tournament. Perhaps one of the dried chestnuts was rotten. Perhaps there were lice in the rice. The gods of the dohyo are not appeased and demand more human sacrifice.

Today the pack of undefeated rikishi broke. Only one left with a chance at a zensho-yusho. Onosho. I correct my prediction. It’s not a definite kachi-koshi this time. I am betting on double figures. Again. If the man keeps it up, and continues to have a good relationship with the deities that protect him from injury, this would be his last kinboshi. He is going to be a Yokozuna sooner rather than later. Komusubi in Kyushu. Sekiwake in Hatsu. Ozeki in Nagoya.

So he is not going to be a maegashira to gain kinboshi. But another factor is that there is going to be a dearth of Yokozuna to take kinboshi from. Perhaps by Nagoya 2018, there will be none.

Harumafuji’s loss today was not due to injury. His face is rather hard to read (it’s written in scar script, and I’m not fluent in that), but I believe his pause at the monitor yesterday was definitely frustration. Frustration on the verge of tears, which he really had to pause and get under control. And I think that his rather beautifully performed Tsukahara vault at the end of today’s torikumi shows that his sumo is not limited by any injuries.

So what’s up?

I hate to admit it, but it’s either age or mental pressure. Whichever it is, it is hurting his reaction time. He is a split of a second too late, where he is used to be the quicker wrestler, the one who sets the pace and finds a solution before there is a problem. And that did not work for him against Hokutofuji, and it did not work for him today against the Red Belted Bane of the Sanyaku. The young maegashira were simply too quick for him.

If he weren’t a Yokozuna, he could go the way of Aminishiki and survive as a sekitori until he starts walking with a cane. But he is a Yokozuna. And a make koshi is intai. Like I said yesterday, there are two possibilities:

  • After the fourth kinboshi, he announces his retirement, Chiyonofuji style.
  • He needs to go kyujo. But he needs a convincing injury to do that. So he plays recklessly and gets himself off the dohyo. But at his age, unless the injury is a broken nail, this means probably that the intai is just postponed to the next basho. He won’t heal as fast as a 21 year old athlete and the body he’ll need to fix is not in mint condition to begin with.

His current statement is that he’ll keep on gambarizing till the end. Which tells me he is not going for the kyujo option.

So as much as it pains me to say this, I think we may soon see a thick oicho-mage, chock full of memories, being sheared ceremoniously by Isegahama oyakata.

And that oyakata is probably in a very bad mood today, not just because of his dear Yokozuna. And here we come again to the bloodthirst of the dohyo deities.

I fully expected Terunofuji to be sekiwake at Kyushu. It’s clear as crystal that he can’t perform any ozeki sumo and that he needs to get intimate with the weights and get himself into shape. And this torikumi was no different than the previous one. For two seconds, there was the old Terunofuji, carrying his opponent in his hands to the tawara. But then the muscles gave. He tried to give it his all, holding on for a few more seconds at the other edge of the dohyo where Shohozan carried him. He was carrying both his own weight and Shohozan’s, and then his knee gave.

He limped out of the dohyo. After getting out of the showers, he could no longer walk unassisted, and limped to his car leaning on loyal Shunba’s shoulder.

So yes, sekiwake at Kyushu. No problem. But injuring that knee for the third time. The man is not yet 26 years old. His whole future was ahead of him. No, the oyakata is probably not happy today. In his 25th anniversary about two weeks ago, he said that he knows that raising both a Yokozuna and an Ozeki is not something that is going to happen to him again any time soon. I suppose he didn’t think he’ll need to say his farewells to them so soon after that celebration.

In other news:

Today Goeido had to postpone his henka by about 6 seconds, because of Chiyotairyu fierce tsuppari. But the sidestep did come, even if at this stage it cannot be called a henka.

All other kokonoe makuuchi guys seem to have won. The most pleasing to watch was Chiyomaru, with very fierce and determined tsuppari and a choke.

Mitakeumi saves a little of his lost face, and neither he nor Tochinoshin lose their mawashi, much to my relief.

Yoshikaze makes short work of Hokutofuji. Hokutofuji is good, but he’s not stable. How can you lose like that to a rikishi who doesn’t even look at you once during the whole bout?

Shodai, of all people, helps us evade Kotoshogiku Day for a while longer.

Tamawashi unfortunately slips on the dohyo and gives Tochiozan a W.

Ichinojo seems to really have woken up. He actually looks as if he cares.

21 thoughts on “Day 5 – Wake Up and Smell The Intai

  1. Onosho did a nice job even though things got a little wild and sloppy there. Normally that kind of scramble favors Harumafuji, but you’re absolutely right: the top gear is just not there. Is it gone forever? Maybe we wait and see; I’ll believe the haircut when I see it. But the barber’s shadow is in the doorway for sure.

    Yoshikaze picked the weirdest winning strategy I’ve ever seen. It looked like a cartoon version of sumo, or the kind of thing brothers do to each other when they are fighting in the kitchen. Hokutofuji really let me down there.

    My actual thought process watching Asanoyama:
    “Man he has a great sumo build. Some day–” “Weak tachiai, weak push. He is not as strong as he looks. He’s going to have to work on that–” “Oh man Okinoumi’s got the arm, he’s going for a ride–” “Wait wtf just happened?” There’s letting a guy off the hook, and there’s whatever Okinoumi did there. How do you lose from that position?

  2. Harumafuji has no choice. He will continue. Goeido’s yusho at this point unless any of the tadpoles can pick up 12 as they start attacking each other. An Onosho zensho yusho is about as likely as it is for Goeido to be the only yokozuna or ozeki standing this weekend. It will not happen, I don’t think.

    • Goeido is fragile, it shows in his lack of sumo. Someone is going to injure him by the middle of week 2. With any luck he will get his 8 wins before that. He has the “Red Menace” on day 6, and Mitakeumi has a LOT of frustration to vent. I don’t think it’s about Goeido winining, its about him surviving until 8. Given his ability to really bring massive offense from the tachiai, to watch him perform this way says in big letters “I am unwell, and I want to stay Ozeki”.

    • Well, Onosho is the only one with a theoretical chance of zensho-yusho, but I agree. Someone, somewhere along the next 10 days is going to find a way to stop his roll. The torikumi guys are running out of sanyaku to throw at him, though. It’s tadpoles galore. So my prediction just says “double digits”, not “zensho yusho”. But pigs have been flying all over Tokyo in the past five days.

      If Goeido beats him tomorrow, then maybe, just maybe, the Ozeki may actually deserve a yusho. A yusho with a large asterisk and a footnote reading “threadbare”. Let’s just say that if he takes a second one at Kyushu, he will not find it wrapped in a thick white rope, if the YDC has anything to say about it (and they do).

      • The thing is, this whole year has been threadbare. But Kisenosato’s injury cannot be taped away and with Hakuho sitting out, too, the whole thing came unglued. It’s forcing the sport to come to grips with the fact that many are hurt, have been hurt, and need time to heal. Takayasu was the dagger.

      • Goeido will not beat Onosho tomorrow unless something really, really odd happens. Onosho was unphased by Terunofuji and has been serene as a Yokozuna on the dohyo. Is a lack of experience a potential reason for Onosho to lose? Absolutely. But, that was also true with his bout against Haramafuji and we’ve seen how that went.

        • Thing is, Goeido is capable of mighty sumo, and he is healthy as a young bull. Unlike Harumafuji, he is not operating under the pressure of two consecutive losses. I’m thinking 50:50 on that bout.

  3. Chiyotairyu overpowered Goeido at the tachi-ai again, but even Goeido version whatever-the-hell-we’re-looking-at is the better rikishi in terms of ring sense and balance.

  4. On the subject of Intai – there are a bunch of wounded rikishi who are holding on. I think that once one of the upper ranked men decide they are going to be bold and step down, you will see a cascade of other follow them. Right now no one wants to be the first, but the tadpoles are forcing the issue. It’s going to be sad to see these mighty sumotori head into the sunset, but it’s the nature of this sport.

    As a combat / competition, the athletes are going to get hurt. When the schedule has little or no built in way to allow them to heal or see medical treatment, the will burn out quickly.

  5. ” ….And I think that his rather beautifully performed Tsukahara vault at the end of today’s torikumi shows that his sumo is not limited by any injuries. …”

    Actually, he was favoring his left arm during and after the bout. I wonder if he feels obligated to continue despite injury as he is the only yokozuna participating?

    • Of course he feels obligated. We’re talking about Haruma-a-man’s-got-to-do-what-a-man’s-got-to-do-fuji here. I don’t actually see him favoring his left arm, except in that actual flip, perhaps. But in any case, that’s the arm where he had that inflammation, and he decided to refrain from operating upon and said that he’ll just tough it. So he is toughing it. What I’m saying is that it doesn’t seem to be limiting him.

      Also, in his locker room interview, he said something along the lines of “Shit. My feet were not keeping up with me. What’s up with that? But my body is moving fine. Unfortunately it doesn’t lead to the correct result”. So he is worrying more about his legs than his arms, it appears. The fact that he is bewildered about it tells me that he doesn’t feel pain, or he wouldn’t be asking “what’s up with that?”.

      • Sounds like stress and mental pressure getting in the way of instinctual movement to me. Or he’s slowing down like we all do at that age. :/

        Though he handles it way better than I would in his situation. The only place I can roll out of danger like him is in video games.

      • Thanks, Herouth, I had not heard his locker room interview. Interesting! Whether it’s physical or mental, I hope he overcomes and makes his kachi-koshi.

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