Natsu Story 1 – Hakuho’s Injured Arm

Something is Amiss…

At the close of the Osaka basho in March, Yokozuna Hakuho injured his right arm in the final match. He was seen gripping the bicep, and wincing in pain. During the yusho ceremony, he was unable to use his right arm to lift the cup, or even the fairly lightweight banner. A subsequent examination by doctors revealed that he had partially torn his right bicep, and the guidance from them was to rest it and “let it heal naturally”.

While this will sound depressingly familiar to sumo fans who saw Kisenosato’s career decay following a similar treatment plan for his pectoral tear, there is every indication that all parties involved were well aware of that failure, and were eager to not repeat it. But in the weeks that followed, Hakuho continues to struggle to train, and finds his right arm to be weak and unsteady. While he did join the jungyo following Osaka, he limited his activities to dohyo-iri. He did not participate in practice matches or keiko.

Hakuho is still not doing any sumo. Says “something is amiss”. Gave 7 minute kawaigari to Enho, but no sumo. He is looking for a way to show up for Haru, but chances of a yusho are slim.

Herouth’s Twitter Feed

At this week’s YDC soken, “The Boss” stayed out of the training area, and sumo fans around the world are right to be worried. Word now comes to us from Herouth that he is undergoing a second examination, and the outcome of that will be a diagnosis for treatment.

He has been saying that his right arm is still not working properly, and is still a source of pain. In all likelihood, we will see Hakuho face a much more invasive repair strategy, that may include surgery to rebuild that muscle, if possible.

This puts Hakuho in a tough spot. Firstly, Tachiai expects that the greatest Yokozuna in anyone’s memory will sit out the Natsu basho, possibly to be hospitalized and treated during the tournament’s 15 day run. This is not the first time that Hakuho has watched a basho from the hospital, and he has proven he can and will train like a maniac to return to competition. But a muscle tear like this will require months of post-surgical recovery, and its unknown how much time the NSK will give him to return to Yokozuna sumo. But the question is – how badly de-conditioned will become with a long recovery? As we saw with Kisenosato, once lost, the balance and strength required to compete at the Yokozuna may not be recoverable.

Hakuho has only recently started working on the steps needed to become an Oyakata, and the end of that process is still many months, if not a year or more away. Being forced to retire before it is complete would cause the greatest sumotori of modern times to be lost to the sport.

Worse yet, Hakuho is a relentless goal-seeker. He has his mind fixed on being front and center for the Olympic opening ceremony next summer, preferably with his two uchi-deshi flanking him. A lengthy recovery from surgery places all of that in doubt. The temptation will be for him to short-cut the recovery, and return to action hoping to meet his goals, or stave off forced retirement. Sounds a lot like Kisenosato’s dilemma will be repeated.

As with any great athlete, situations like this are never very happy, especially coming near the end of their athletic career. We hope that whatever outcome presents itself, Hakuho can stay whole, connected with sumo, and happy.

5 thoughts on “Natsu Story 1 – Hakuho’s Injured Arm

  1. It’s always disappointing when The Boss isn’t there. But even as a fan, I hope he takes the time to get healthy. He has nothing left to prove on the dohyo.

    IMO, it’s good for sumo when some of the younger rikishi get more time to shine and Hakuho’s talent sucks up a LOT of air. I don’t think Takakeisho and Tochinoshin make ozeki if The Boss had been genki for 5-6 basho last year.

  2. seeing what Kisenosato endured and how it all played out was bad enough, but a possible similar trajectory and outcome for The Boss…. it’s just so sad. his mind must be whirling… I too hope that Hakuho can stay whole, connected with sumo,…. and happy! even though, as mrjwags has said, it will give some of the younger rikishi time to shine, and i do agree with this as it’s the natural ebb and flow of the sport and rikishi we love so much, this type of possibly career ending injury is never the way we want to see things go, and we certainly don’t wish it for any rikishi at any level of his career

  3. Hakuho’s naturalization is definitely not going to take a year. Tomozuna oyakata says from his experience that it takes about six months. He can certainly make it within three kyujo or so.

      • I believe most foreign Makuuchi rikishi of that age are permanent residents. That’s already part of the consideration.


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