The Nagoya basho has, over the years, been a place where the unexpected can and does happen. This year witnessed a yusho by Sekiwake Mitakeumi, finishing with a respectable 13-2 record. With his prior tournament performance of 9-6 at Natsu, it was proclaimed that he was pushing for the credentials to be elevated to Ozeki. A successful bid would return us to 3 Yokozuna and 4 Ozeki, last seen in 2016 prior to Kisenosato’s Yokozuna promotion. Many fans have put an asterisk next to Mitakeumi’s July championship, citing just how many of sumo’s top men were injured and either did not compete or were not fighting at full power.
To further complicate matters, Mitakeumi has long been known to perform horribly in test and practice matches in between tournaments. Some commentators have gone as far as to imply that he does not put in the effort required to reach higher rank. His poor showing on practice matches has been especially bad leading up to the Aki basho, some examples:
- August 30th vs an injured Tochinoshin: 3 – 10
- August 31st (YDC Soken) against Hakuho, Kakuryu and many others: 1-13
- September 3rd vs Tochinoshin. Tochiozan and Aoiyama: 6-13
- September 4th vs Tochinoshin. Tochiozan and Aoiyama: 5-11
To even be considered for Ozeki promotion, Mitakeumi needs at least 11 wins at Aki. Its clear that his practice matches all stink, but this is not necessarily indicative of how he will do during the basho. Much of his fate will be decided by who is healthy enough to compete, it is typical for the Sekiwake to face the Ozeki and Yokozuna (if any) in the second week of the basho. Given the damaged nature of the upper San’yaku, time could be on Mitakeumi’s side. But the psychological advantage of having his portrait hoisted to the rafters of the Kokugikan on Saturday will be undeniable, as will his presence at the start of Sunday’s matches to return the yusho banner and the Emperor’s cup. This may rattle a few of his opponents, or boost his confidence when he needs it most.
One thing is certain, Mitakeumi is going to be pushing for every win he can muster, and we will be watching him with keen interest.
7 thoughts on “Aki Story 4 – Ozeki Hopeful Mitakeumi”
Does the YDC have any pull when it comes to ozeki promotions? Or do they strictly deal with yokozuna issues? Because it seemed they were really unhappy with his performance during the YDC Soken, I’m thinking that even 11 wins might not be enough. Of course, it depends on who those wins are against. If there’s at least one yokozuna and one ozeki amongst the 11 wins, it might be enough?
The YDC will certainly render an opinion on the subject, but I think the final call will be up to the NSK. Some of it may hinge on if we exit Aki with Tochinoshin at Ozekiwake for Kyushu, Takayasu out hurt and maybe a Yokozuna or two in dry dock.
Sumo needs more kanban rikishi healthy enough to show up and compete no matter what, and if the current crop is too banged up to fulfill that need, they will be more inclined to mint some who are.
Bruce is correct about the context. The last time a sekiwake got 33 wins and didn’t get promoted was in 2006 when there were already five ozeki, and three of them were under 30.
Even if he doesn’t get promoted straight away, as long as he posts double digits, he will have another (better) chance in Fukuoka.
If only he can keep his confidence and consistence from Nagoya, he should be an Ozeki by the end of the year.
His ability to stay calm and focused with solid technique was impressive at Nagoya. I liked finally seeing him show some emotion during his winning interview and dohyo speech. I’m
excited to see how he does at Aki. There are so many strong M1-M6 right now, the competition will be great.
Good analysis, Bruce. Mitakeumi has to be smelling the opportunity, just as he did in Nagoya.
I like to think that he holds back in practice matches to guard against injury.