It’s the last few days before the basho, and I thought our readers would like a few insights, based on news reports of practice sessions, of who is genki and who is not.
As we already know, he is kyujo, no-show. Enho’s tachimochi debut will have to wait.
Probably the genkiest of the “showa” rikishi. Kakuryu and Goeido had the best performances during the YDC keiko-soken. Kakuryu was 9W3L in that particular keiko. He then proceeded to do his usual degeiko (practice away from one’s own heya) at Tokitsukaze beya – some of it part of the general joint keiko of the Tokitsukaze ichimon – and basically beat everybody he engaged.
Kakuryu has a very structured build-up towards each basho, and he has completed his. Today he had light keiko in his own heya. The significant part of his interview is, perhaps, “It’s refreshing to come into a basho without any pains”. Meaning that he has no injury he is secretly dealing with at the moment, and thus we may expect good performance from the sole participating Yokozuna.
His score at the keiko soken was 9-2. Although he tends to look better in practice than in honbasho, he has not been kadoban in quite a while, and seems to have his act together.
Although the Ozeki has no injuries that we are aware of, he was looking less than brilliant in the YDC keiko-soken. For some time, Araiso oyakata is trying to get him to switch his tachiai from his usual shoulder blast to a more classic left-hand-inside.
Hakkaku, the head of the NSK, has called that “A grave mistake”. “He is not doing his own brand of sumo, and his actual power does not manifest in the tachiai”. During the Nishonoseki joint keiko, he had a series of san-ban with Takakeisho. He went 17-13. It’s not bad, given that his opponent is the same rank, but much of it was due to his legendary stamina rather than his superior sumo. He did even worse against Ichinojo (we’ll get to that).
My personal opinion? No yusho this time around. Not until he actually learns how to slipt that left arm inside like Kisenosato in his day.
Our last Ozeki is Takakeisho, and he went a meager 3W8L in the YDC keiko soken.
Now, some of you may raise a brow and want to quote Alan Iverson at me. But really, at this stage of preparation, keiko is supposed to be murder. It’s not “just practice”. Although rikishi may not perform suicidal throw attempts at the edge of the dohyo during practice, they fight like mad and try to get the best opponents to simulate their actual competition. And the keiko soken is even more important than your usual morning keiko for Ozeki who are Yokozuna hopefuls.
Takakeisho seems to suffer from the usual fatigue that follows a promotion to Ozeki. He is trying to fight it off as much as he can. After the keiko soken, he had some practice within his own ichimon – winning 10 out of 10 bouts with Yago and Onosho. But those two are beneath his level. The next day came the above-mentioned series with Takayasu:
As I mentioned, this was more or less balanced, with Takayasu winning mostly on the stamina clause.
My personal opinion: no yusho, but no kadoban, either.
The Ozekiwake has to win 10 bouts this basho to get back his retinue of tsukebito and place in shrine dedications. His main problem is the series of injuries he is trying to work through – not always sensibly (using acupuncture is not going to work, sorry). His old leg injury troubles him with what seems to be a chronic hematoma. Lately, it turns out, he started treating it with leeches (imported from Italy, no less).
Whether that is successful or not, he seems to have fairly good keiko, though not the kind of domination he would need to get 10 wins out of the joi-jin. He engaged Mitakeumi, and his own heya’s Aoiyama and Tochiozan, winning 8W5L. He was pleased, though, because his bad pulling tendency disappeared.
My opinion? It will be difficult for him to return to Ozeki if he can’t manage his injury.
Our other sekiwake is actually doing quite well. He showed up for degeiko at Tokitsukaze, where Takayasu was also on hand, and the two engaged for 22 bouts.
The sekiwake ate Takayasu for breakfast, 17W5L. He totally sealed off that left arm and neutralized Takayasu’s tachiai.
He also had moshi-ai with other Makuuchi wrestlers, e.g. Nishikigi and Shodai, and ended 5W3L with them.
I think the more significant part of this news story is the fact that Ichinojo had the stamina to do 30 consecutive bouts, most with the current Makuuchi king of stamina. With 227kg and a background of lower back issues, that’s very, very good news for him.
My opinion: if this was not an outlier but an actual indication of his capabilities right now, then he is going for that Ozeki run.
As usual, it’s hard to find any news of Makuuchi members who are not part of the very top of san-yaku, other than as practice rivals for the top dogs (e.g. Shodai, Onosho, Daieisho – they all seem to be fit enough to be punching bags for Yokozuna and Ozeki).
But I do have a couple of hints – all from Juryo. First, there was that Reiwa photo that all the sekitori took together, as directed by the NSK:
It’s not actually “all sekitori”, though. Instead of 70, there are 69 there. The missing one is Hakuyozan. So if any of you are fans, I think it’s safe to say that he is not going to be participating in Natsu.
But having 69 also means that Ikioi and Chiyonokuni are in that picture. Indeed, Chiyonokuni was filmed walking on his own two feet without any crutch or visible injury.
That is not to say, though, that he is in sumo-ready condition. There is no word from Kokonoe oyakata at the moment.
Edit: The torikumi for the next two days just came out, and indeed, both Chiyonokuni and Hakuyozan are kyujo.
As for Ikioi, he is here in this photo from the Tokitsukaze joint keiko:
By the state of his hair, I’d say that he’s been doing some practice, which means we will probably see him enter the basho. I just hope that he enters it in a better state than he did the last basho.
On to the basho!