The sumo world enters Kyushu with 3 of the 4 Ozeki calibre rikishi in damaged condition. Perhaps none more perilously than Tochinoshin. During 2013, risking star Tochinoshin significantly injured his right knee, which led him to seek surgery to repair the damage, and an extended kyujo. After sitting out 3 consecutive basho, he re-entered competition at the bottom of Makushita, and promptly racked up 4 consecutive yusho to blast his way back into the top division.
His hard work, dedication to sumo and relentless training saw him promoted to Ozeki in 2018, the the cheers of fans around the world. Since then Tochinoshin has struggled to keep his sumo working at Ozeki levels, and a string of problems and injuries have put him at the cusp of permanent demotion back to the lower ranks.
The threat: re-injury to that right knee. Problems with that knee saw him struggle during Aki, finishing with a 6-9 record on top of his kadoban status. As a result he enters Kyushu as an “Ozekiwake” with a chance to re-attain Ozeki status with a 10 win tournament.
A healthy Tochinoshin can deliver 10 wins in brilliant style, using his trademark lift-and-shift sumo that leaves nearly any opponent helpless if the big Georgian can land his lethal left hand outside grip. But that trademark move requires him to have steady footing to carry not only his own weight, but the massive bulk of his opponent.
In the training leading up to Kyushu, Tochinoshin and his Oyakata have worked hard to put a positive spin on things, and Team Tachiai dearly hope he really is healthy, and this is not just the normal sumo-style window dressing. We will be watching with eager anticipation as Tochinoshin presses for 10 wins, and a return to sumo’s second highest rank.