Following his brutal injury in March of 2017, the then-freshly-minted Yokozuna Kisenosato faced a difficult choice. Nursing a torn pectoral muscle and a host of other secondary injuries, he looked a possibly career-ending surgery in the face and blinked. Instead, hoping to “heal naturally”, he contributed weakly to the remaining four tournaments of the year. Though he had been repeatedly urged by the Yokozuna Deliberation Council to take his time and recover to full strength, time and again Kisenosato returned to the dohyo and languished.
During the Kyushu basho, he allowed his record to drop to 4-5 before he faced the facts and withdrew, but not before giving up an alarming five kinboshi. Even Maegashira 5 Takarafuji was able to defeat the first Japanese Yokozuna in a generation. Clearly, Kisenosato was still significantly impacted by his injuries, and in no condition to return.
At the time of his injury, the Tachiai crew remarked that Kisenosato would never be considered “ready” until we once again saw him sparring against Takayasu and able to hold the upper hand. Truth be told, the endless, relentless training sessions with Takayasu is what drove both of them to higher performance. Since Kisenosato’s injury, Takayasu’s performance has plateaued or even declined.
Now, reports from training leading up to January’s Hatsu Basho state that Kisenosato is back to battling Takayasu in bout after bout, sometimes for an hour or more at a time, and winning a comfortable majority. While it may be too optimistic to hope for the return of Kisenosato, we believe he may be able to execute Ozeki level sumo for the upcoming tournament.
Like Kakuryu, Kisenosato has been warned that the next time he steps onto the dohyo, he must compete at Yokozuna level, or retire. While I was not originally a fan of “The Great Pumpkin”, his fighting spirit and his commitment to his sumo have earned my respect. In my heart, I am eager to see him once again fight with vigor and purpose.
8 thoughts on “Hatsu Story 2 – Kisenosato Won’t Give Up”
I’m less optimistic. His winning record in training bouts against Takayasu is impressive, sure, but he’s not going to have to fight Takayasu fifteen times. He’s going to be against fifteen different opponents with styles of sumo ranging from Kakuryu’s reactive style to Takakeisho’s wave-action tsuppari to Kotoshogiku’s bumpety yorikiri to Tochinoshin’s pick-’em-up-and-drop-’em-out, and they all know he basically doesn’t have a left pectoral muscle. Maybe he really is getting back up to form, but I think it’s more likely that Takayasu – while he may do fine against other opponents – just isn’t very good at taking advantage of the Yokozuna’s particular weaknesses.
My prediction? If he shows up, we’ll be down to two Yokozuna next basho.
I am more worried about Kakuryu, but both of the “K” series Yokozuna are on the bubble. I would also caution fans to not read too much into the first 3 days, when everyone is clearing out the cobwebs and getting back into their basho form. Especially with the New Years break, we may see people stumble in the first week.
I’m guessing Takayasu is not exactly trying to take maximal advantage of Kise’s weaknesses in these practice bouts.
The fighting spirit and determination of Kisenosato are amazing.That’s for sure.Let’s hope for the best.
Here is a rather good picture of what used to be Kisenosato’s left pec:
Whatever happens, at least we witnessed his two victories on Day 15 to clinch the yusho at Haru last year. One of the my favourite moments in sport.
KIsenosato’s injury is such a terrible piece of luck for a rikishi who really earned his rope. He should have been able to put in at least a few years of top-quality sumo before retiring. At least he has elder stock.