Who is hot, who is not – news roundup

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.

Hakuho

As we already know, he is kyujo, no-show. Enho’s tachimochi debut will have to wait.

Kakuryu

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.

Goeido

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.

Takayasu

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.

Takakeisho

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.

Tochinoshin

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.

Ichinojo

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.

Others

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!

25 thoughts on “Who is hot, who is not – news roundup

  1. Re: Tochinoshin, I’d agree that acupuncture isn’t going to fix the injury, but it’s possible it will help him get over the pain barrier. I had a serious leg injury and it helped enormously with muscle problems – pain and stiffness. That being said, most people don’t just go out and treat the same area brutally the next day. So perhaps it’s less of a fix and more of a recovery aide to help him play through the pain barrier.

    • Legs are usually the fittest and most aesthetic part of sumo wrestlers. Tochinoshin’s legs are the exact opposite of that. Discoloration and varicose veins. If he ever develops diabetes, he may end up losing that purpled leg of his.

    • If any of the things he described (acupuncture, electric currents, massages) had worked, he wouldn’t be trying new stuff.

      • That’s a really fair point, I just don’t think it’s a binary thing, or a black and white thing. I don’t think there’s one magic bullet or one solution, every surgery and recovery is different and I have a feeling every recovery from each basho for Tochinoshin is different. Anything he tries to do to relieve pain may not necessarily be a solution, but a temporary fix to try and get an extra 2 or 5 or 10% in the recovery process. Maybe an electric current gets him so far, but acupuncture might get him a little further so he tries that. I’ve actually done acupuncture WITH electric currents – maybe he should try that!! ;)

        If I were him I’d be trying anything and everything as well, especially when he’s the wrong side of 30 and trying to prolong earning at the maximum level for as long as possible.

    • For legal reasons, they don’t call it acupuncture here in the USA, but ‘dry needling’ is essentially acupuncture. I had it done in my shoulder — with and without electric current — and it does a remarkable job of relieving muscle tension caused by pain. But it all depends on whether the practitioner hit the right spot on my shoulder. Sometimes great, sometimes nothing.

      I would not be surprised if he were getting a real benefit from acupuncture.

      • That fact that they don’t call it acupuncture must be something in your state or locale. Everyone here in Washington state calls it acupuncture, as does my health insurance.

  2. 1) I think the only thing that’ll keep Ikioi out of a honbasho is if the oyakata literally ties him down to a hospital bed and maybe grabs some horse tranq for good measure.
    2) I REALLY wonder what Tochinoshin’s wife thinks of some of the “remedies” he tries… “Leeches, Levan? Really? And why Italy?”

  3. It seems that, since the last honbasho, Takakeisho has laid off of his usual wave action technique. Perhaps that accounts for his subpar performance.

  4. I miss Chiyonokuni and I’m glad to hear he’s walking. Hope he keeps taking the time he needs to get back his agility and spring in his step.

    Glad to hear Kakuryu isn’t ailing either. The photo of him with the flotilla of yellow rubber duckies is on my fridge.

    • Do you have a link for the rubber duckies photo? I looked about and couldn’t find one. Mahalo.

        • I did not know that! I got it as a postcard at a little Japanese import shop in WA state (US). now that you mention it the ducks are disproportionately large… Oh well. I can’t get the article you linked to to copy into google translate but I’ll take your word for it. Still, it’s interesting that someone chose Kakuryu to photoshop into the rubber duckies!

          • Actually, the textual content of the article is less important than the simple existence of the background photo. You can see that the ducks are exactly the same in the same positions, thus either the “hidden ducks” were photoshopped in or Kakuryu has been.

            As another tip – you’ll never, ever, see a Yokozuna go into any body of water wearing an oicho-mage. It’s a formal hairdo. While rikishi will gleefully run into the sea wearing their practice mawashi, once they wear their oicho-mage they start handling themselves a lot more carefully.

  5. Kakuryu’s stable has only two other wrestlers, both at Sandanme. Really impressive that he can maintain fitness and morale.

  6. Tochinoshin will face 9 Maegashira rikishi this basho. If hakuho was present and Aoiyama not from his beya , he would have 7 maegashira to face . Ordinarily ozeki requires 8 wins. So 10 wins for Tochinoshin in these circumstances should be easily doable.
    If Tochinoshin is healthy i bet on him regaining ozeki status.
    i feel all ozeki will get 8 wins
    Ichinojo will retain sekiwake rank and will be on road to ozeki with at least 11 wins this basho.
    Mitakeumi is doubtful . I am not sure of his health. He might lose the rank.
    Aoiyama will get promoted to sekiwake since Tochinoshin will vacate on promotion.
    If kakuryu doesn’t win this basho i will have to wonder if he will ever win now.

    • The only real difference to last basho is, that he doesnt fight Hakuho. He lost to Miyogiryu (maybe not every basho), Hokutofuji and Endo last time. He beat Ichinojo and Tamawashi, which he might not repeat every basho. Chiyotairyu is another rikishi, who could give him trouble in his current shape.
      I hope we will see more of the Tochinoshin again, who became Ozeki, but not sure his body will ever support that again. 10 wins are highly unlikely. Tochinoshin had in his whole career only 8 double digit tournaments in Makuuchi. 2 before his injury and 6 since returning to makuuchi, of which 3 during his Ozeki run and none after that. Maybe if a number of guys drop out.

  7. I’ve heard elsewhere that Ichinojo had 22 bouts with Takayasu and 8 bouts afterward with other rikishi. This would seem to line up with the “17W5L” record in the post.

    • You are right. I neglected to reckon his bouts with Nishikigi, Shodai etc., ending at 5-3. I’ll edit that in now for the sake of completeness.

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