Breaking: Yokozuna Kisenosato Announces his Retirement

Kisenosato Retire

According to the NHK, the news everyone was expecting but nobody wanted to hear has broken: Yokozuna Kisenosato will retire. This is a very sad day for sumo, as is any day that one of its grand champions and longtime stars steps away from competition. However, I’m sure many will agree that this development has been a long time coming.

For those who have only seen Kisenosato compete in the last few basho, what you saw was only the ghost of a man who lived and breathed this incredible sport. Yet for much of his seventeen-year career, Kisenosato was an incredibly successful athlete, as well as one of the sports most dedicated proponents. Kisenosatos ascension to Yokozuna was an incredible celebration for a nation looking for a champion of their own, and the fact that his time at the top was so short makes writing this article that much harder. So too, was watching the shell of this very same man trying in vain to claw his way back to active duty after his debilitating injury. Much has been said about Kisenosato and how he should have called it quits long ago and how he’s bringing disgrace to the rank. But I can’t really fault him for trying everything in his power to hold on to his career, his life’s work, until the very last, even when everyone else could see the writing on the wall.

Reason has finally prevailed though, and now Kisenosato can look towards the next chapter of his life. He can take what he’s learned and pass it on to the next generation. And if his future disciples show even the slightest bit of skill, determination, and dignity of their Oyakata, then the sport will be better for it.

38 thoughts on “Breaking: Yokozuna Kisenosato Announces his Retirement

  1. I’m glad somebody go through to him and I wish him the best in his career as an elder. I hope somebody learns a lesson here. Go to the doctor and if they say “have surgery” then go have surgery. Especially if you are a Yokozuna and they can’t demote you anyway.

        • I think it’s 90% he pulls out…I think he gets the massive benefit of one yokozuna retiring and as many as three kadoban ozeki (I mean do you see more than maybe Takayasu pulling it together in the last 12 days) as cover for a kyujo…I don’t think the association wants any competition for attention re: Kisenosato’s retirement ceremony and I suspect he can withdraw without repercussion at this point.

      • You all know the precedent and procedure better than me re retirement, but last year Kakuryu won more yusho than any other rikishi (2), and in doing so had the most successful year of his career (had never won 2 yusho in a year before).

        He made a yokozuna kachikoshi in two of the other basho, and went kyujo twice, in non-consecutive basho. In terms of attendance he was no worse than 2015, and far better than 2017.

        Would they really be eager to push him out when he’s still winning tournaments, and there doesn’t look like there are any ozeki with the consistency to step up and wear the rope?

        • Last year likely earned him some leeway, especially if he needs to sit out a tournament or two to get healthy. Entering and losing to lower-ranked opponents is not a good look for a Yokozuna.

        • I do…because they are now going to be desperate for a new next great Japanese hope…what happens to ticket sales next tourney? What happens if Takakeisho and Mitakeumi rise to Ozeki and start winning yusho? Granted, I am as cynical as they come, but I think this is a massive opportunity for the NSK to get what they want, which is native born Japanese at the top…Goeido is fading and old, Tochi is beaten up, Hakuho prob isn’t staying past the olympics…the time is absolutely ripe for Takaysu, Mitakeumi, Takakeisho to start crushing it…and pushing Kakuryu out is win-win. He’s Mongolian and he’s a Yokozuna. He’s in the way. Just watch.

          • In what sense is he in the way, unless he is strong enough to prevent the up-and-comers from putting up the win totals and yusho needed to attain the highest ranks?

        • I felt that an anonymous “like” was insufficient to show how much I agree with you. Kakaryu’s 2018 was enjoyable to watch, and absent the type of career-ending injury Kisenesato had, he deserves the opportunity to get himself fit enough to fully confront the new wave of rikishi before bowing out. If he can’t, then so be it, but retirement talk is premature right now.

    • Was he ever actually TOLD to go to surgery? I got the impression he wasn’t the only one insisting he “heal naturally.” I’m just glad he’s ending things before he injures that side so much he hurts his day-to-day functioning.

      I wonder how Takayasu is taking this news…I’ve read in multiple places that he picked his stable because Kisenosato was there. If there’s to be any silver lining to this, if it inspired Takayasu to win his first yusho…but more likely, the flu and emotions about this will probably relegate him to bridesmaid yet again.

      • I don’t know…but somebody had to inform somebody in the equation that “rest” wasn’t going to cure a pectoral tear…I mean, right?…I hope?…lord that would be some medical malpractice if nobody was like “dude, muscle is ripped, we need to sew that thing up and do some physio for two months”…I suspect the classic sumo attitude of “broken leg? walk it off” is to blame.

        • It’s probably a “you shouldn’t have to be told” thing. I mean, the tourney where he got injured was the first I’d ever seen of sumo. With less than two weeks of “experience” at this, I already thought that injury was probably career-ending. But the more I learn over a year later, the less I’m confident he was told he needed surgery or else.

  2. What a sad day, he was so dominant in his peak form. Sports injuries always leave you wondering what could have been.

  3. Robbing Nishikigi of his second kinboshi and the chance to clean sweep all Yokozuna … how mean ;)

    Glad he finally put an end to this. I can understand that it his hard to retire, when you just made it to Yokozuna and can hardly say “I achieved all I wanted”, but this was never leading anywhere.
    Hope he can guide Takayasu to his first Yusho now and hopefully Taganoura beya will learn something about seeking proper medical advice ….

  4. Can’t believe it has taken this long.

    Let’s enumerate his “accomplishments” as a yokozuna:

    -His yokozuna record of 36 wins and 35 losses, for a win rate of .507, is the worst in history.
    -His 8 straight defeats as a yokozuna is also unprecedented.
    -A yokozuna hadn’t started 0-3 in back to back tournaments in 88 years. Kisenosato did one worse than that.
    -He gave out 18 kinboshi in 8 tournaments. He only completed 2 of those 8 tournaments, making his kinboshi rate the worst ever.

    Understandably many will look at these and conclude that he was one of the worst yokozuna in history. The sad part is that all of this could have been easily avoided.

    A stronger oyakata would have made Kisenosato retire long before he soiled his reputation by etching his name in the wrong kind of record books. Hell, a more competent oyakata would have ensured that his prize pupil would get the best medical care available after his pectoral injury.

    Instead, both the yokozuna and Tagonoura kept deluding themselves into believing that a return to form was possible. They kept delaying the inevitable, and talking up his prowess in practice sessions. They unnecessarily embarrassed themselves and soiled a very good rikishi’s standing.

    I sincerely hope that most sumo fans remember Kisenosato for his back-to-back yushos and his momentous wins to stop historic win streaks by Hakuho. But it seems inevitable that future sumo fans will look back on the latter part of Kisenosato’s career and wonder what the hell happened there. What happened was gross negligence and incompetence.

    Let’s hope Kisenosato learned something, and becomes a better oyakata than Tagonoura proved to be.

    • 100%…and his narrative completely changes…if he retires after the injury…he’s forever remembered as a “could be” who hit bad luck and retired on top…if he has surgery, he’s doing everything he can to return and either succeeds and is hailed as a hero or fails, retires and is seen as having done everything to continue in sumo and failing due to injury…instead the narrative is “tried to ignore serious injury, embarrassed himself for two years and retiring in disgrace” (maybe a bit harsh but two years of shit absolutely changes what people are going to remember about his career)

    • The NSK and YDC have a role in this, too. If the atmosphere in the stands was as bad as it’s been rumored to be this time, that’s directly their business.

    • The legacy of a Rikishi comprehends all of his career, not just the time as Yokozuna.
      For the ones who saw him fighting the memory is unforgettable: he was a major force in the years of the Hakuho dominance.
      When in 100 years people will only look at the stats, there´s more than 5 years as a dominant Ozeki where he seldom went under 10 wins pro Basho. They will read that after his first Basho as Yokozuna he started going Kyujo until leading up to the Intai of today.
      That, without considering that he still has about 30 years as an Oyakata, that will be part of his Sumo legacy.
      I´m sure he will be a great Oyakata when his time is due. He´s a warrior at heart, never been touched by any of the dirt that lingered in sumo in the last decades, and helped his heya mate to emerge at the very top.
      Long live Yokozuna Kisenosato!

  5. I was really hoping that somehow he’d get to go out vs. a fellow Yokozuna, even if they had to move Hakuho vs. Kisenosato to do so. What I will remember is a peerless determination and a laudable dedication to his sport, despite the trevails since his awesome yusho against Terunofuji. Good luck and good wishes to a man beset by the most unfortunate back story to come along in ages.

  6. News stories like this make me wish Tachi had a Discord server so we could talk in real time without having to go through Akismet…

  7. Thank you for the memories Kisenosato. When I first became interested in sumo, a development which I consider to be very important to me, you immediately became my favourite rikishi. You demonstrated amazing fighting spirit and technique. You were so close to that first yusho for such a long time. Your comeback victory in Haru 2017 remains to be one of the greatest spectacles I have seen in sport. Enjoy your retirement.

  8. I am relieved. He can stop the facade and trying to be something he can no longer be. Now a new chapter of his life can begin, with many new opportunities for accomplishment, and hopefully happiness.

  9. just want to give him a big hug. his emotional reactions the last 3 days have been killing me. we all know it’s been a long while coming, but still…. no words….

  10. I may get hate, but i think it’s about damn time. I have made it known that I feel his time as a Yokozuna has been about 6 to 8 months too long, and solely because he is a Japanese born rikishi.

    Its been a farce, and I am glad that is finally ending. Sumo can put this embarrassing episode behind it, and move forward to celebrate those up and coming wrestlers of today.

  11. :-(

    It sorrows me to see this. I had just started watching sumo regularly when he won that basho to earn his promotion. To see him injured in the very next basho and retire a year later is heartbreaking.

    I wish him well in his next position.

  12. Nothing sad about it. He sucked of late and should have retired last year. He gave a bad taste to the reputation of the rank and everybody went along with it because he’s Japanese. Goodbye grumpy cat.

  13. First Andy Murray; now Kisenosato – what a week of retirements. Is Kisenosato the Andy Murray of sumo? Would have won more titles but for the greatest champions of all time.

  14. No hate here, well spoken. You have to think if this had been Kakuryu he would have been gone long ago.

    Also have to agree wholeheartedly with AGH on the injury treatment. You really have to wonder what they were thinking when they decided surgery wouldn’t be needed. I would hope their sports medicine is advanced beyond “take 2 aspirin and call me in a week” but you really have to wonder.

    And along those lines, they really need to look at this jungyo thing. These guys are beat up at the end of 15 days and they need some time to recuperate. That doesn’t mean party hearty for a week then hit the regional tour. If these guys were given the time needed, perhaps we wouldn’t be watching Kakuryu, Goeido, and Tochinoshin putting on their current display.

    Enough ranting. Can’t wait to see what happens on the dohyo on Day 4!


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