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.