After leading the yusho race for most of the Hatsu basho, Yokozuna hakuho withdrew on day 14 after suffering 3 straight losses. His kyujo application cited complications with his right knee, and many sumo fans and pundits chalked it up to him wanting to save his pride after losing 3 straight. As it turns out, reality was far more gruesome.
Hakuho skipped the Kyushu tournament to have surgery on this knee – the latests in a series of medical procedures that he has undergone to try and keep himself in fighting form for a few more tournaments. He looked fairly well during the pre-basho work up, and was enthusiastic to complete and probably win the finally Tokyo basho of the Heisei era. But on the 4th day of the tournament, he faced Hokutofuji, and won the match by some minor gymnastics on the tawara to stay in the ring while Hokutofuji dove for the gyoji. It turns out this re-injured his knee. The problem seemed minor at first, but grew worse day over day. As reported on Twitter (thanks to Herouth)
The decision to go kyujo came after he found he could no longer sleep at night, due to the pain and inflammation in his knee, and it was clear that he was going to require medical intervention, and possibly additional surgery.
This was bad enough, but following the basho, the YDC decided once again to put their foot in their collective mouths. In a post-meeting statement, (thanks to Kintamayama) outgoing chairman and Colonel Sanders Cosplayer Kitamura had this to say: They were doing proper sumo before they went kyujo and there was no sign of any serious injury. Some members noted that it was a bit strange. The Kyokai’s appointed doctor was the one who should be signing the certificates and not their individual doctors and some others said they would like to see a more objective certificate stating exactly how many days of rest they need..”
The overwhelming question remains – just how bad is it? Well, Hakuho had at least a hematoma in that right knee, and that is a good indication that something tore apart that was not completely healed. Most fans would be fine with him taking an extended break to get healthy, but it seems that the YDC is on the warpath now that Kisenosato has retired. Hakuho is truly the greatest rikishi most of us will ever see, and it would seem a shame to not give him the time and “cover” he needs to return to fighting form. After the 9 partial or complete kyujo granted to Kisenosato, this episode would seem tough to swallow. But as a westerner, I recognize my perspective is different, and I see these men as athletes, and not as cultural icons.
Tachiai hopes “The Boss” can get healthy and return to tossing everyone around like a hacky-sack soon.