COVID-19 outbreak in Tamanoi beya

Here is an update to the earlier news we published about a new outbreak of COVID-19 in Grand Sumo.

Following the completion of all test and results, the NSK announced that 18 new rikishi have been found positive for COVID-19, all belonging to Tamanoi beya.

This includes one of the heya’s sekitori – Fujiazuma (J14E).

In total, counting the first rikishi who was diagnosed on September 5th, this makes 19 rikishi out of the heya’s 28.

13 of the rikishi have already been hospitalized, and have mild symptoms. The others are asymptomatic, and are currently isolated at the heya, awaiting admission to a proper facility.

However, the basho will go ahead as planned – excepting the Tamanoi rikishi and oyakata, who will all be absent.

Unless the NSK makes a special dispensation for these rikishi (which I consider unlikely), this means the two sekitori will go 0-0-15, the lower ranked rikishi will go 0-0-7, and they will all suffer the usual consequences to their rank. The ones to be most affected are:

  • The two sekitori, Azumaryu and Fujiazuma, who will lose their sekitori status.
  • Shiraishi, currently Ms2W, will drop out of the promotion range.

Luckily, the heya does not have any Jonokuchi wrestlers, so nobody will be going off-banzuke.

The heya also includes a gyoji, yobidashi, two tokoyama and a sewanin. However, they do not live at the heya, and have not been at the heya at all in the applicable time slot. The NSK consulted with its infection expert, and he said that in such a case, there is no reason to keep them away from the basho.

Tachiai wishes all rikishi involved a speedy and complete recovery, and hopes that no new cases should arise.

13 thoughts on “COVID-19 outbreak in Tamanoi beya

  1. Wish the ones who were currently negative could be separated and be allowed to compete under the same standards as anyone else… Are there any gyoji or yobidashi in that heya? Has the NSK said what they’d do if there are any in a heya that tests positive? I imagine missing a yobidashi isn’t as big of a deal as a gyoji, but still.

    • I think that would be risky at this point. They may be negative now, but it takes about 4-5 days for the virus to reach testable levels once you contracted it. They could all become highly infectious exactly in time for shonichi. Not good.

      At best, one could hope they’d be allowed in later on when repeat tests show they are virus-free. But I’m pretty sure both fellow rikishi and spectators would feel uneasy to hear anybody near them is from that heya, at least for the near future. This may factor into the decision.

    • Regarding gyoji/yobidashi, I have edited the post to include information about them. They will participate in the basho.

  2. Herouth, I’m interested in your view that the banzuke committee are unlikely to give any special dispensation to the withdrawn rikishi. I guess there’s no precedent for this but I assumed they would be lenient (even though they have been non commital in public comments)

    • Lenient as in “If somebody is supposed to drop 13-16 places, we’ll let him go down only 13 if allowed by other constraints”, then maybe. But an actual, precedent-defying preservation of their ranks? I doubt it. I mean “it’s not their fault” is not an excuse, as it’s not anybody’s fault that they get sick (Terunofuji) or injured (Tomokaze). “There are a lot of them” is also not an excuse because that would just mean a lot of people not getting promoted because they take up the slots they should earn. In short, it just doesn’t fit the NSK’s way of thinking. But I may be wrong, they may decide it’s a special case. We’ll see.

      • Difficult to imagine breaking with tradition.

        A practical argument, would be that a more lenient policy would encourage disclosure.

        Facing the choice between tradition and newer practical realities, we know the safe bet is…

        Tradition!

      • There’s a difference between when you (or your oyakata) decide that you can’t compete, and someone says you’re not allowed to compete because of you might potentially be infected, even though you test negative. All those who test positive are much less likely to receive leniency, as it’s the same as being sick with anything contagious even if you feel fine; but those who test negative and never test positive are completely screwed by just being members of the heya. They may have done everything in their power to not get infected, but they can’t prevent the outbreak among the rest of the heya members.

        They perhaps should show a little leniency for those who test positive but are asymptomatic, but I really hope those who never test positive are only dropped in rank a nominal amount. However, they didn’t seem to do anything different with Chiyomaru after Haru, and they certainly should have. Chiyomaru was 7-5 in bouts he was allowed to compete in, and he was absent due to strict precautions, not due to being unwilling or unable to fight. Yet his rank stayed the same as though he was 7-8. The only possible leniency would have been he didn’t go down in rank, but from what I remember, basically anyone with a 7-8 in that situation would have been held steady.

      • I’m not sure what would be a good way to handle this, but I think they should definitely be more lenient than what you describe. I could imagine like softening especially the drop of the Sekitori to the degree that they can regain there status next basho, e.g. drop Fujiazuma at max to Ms5 instead of what would probably Ms15 and set Azumaryu at Ms1. For the rest of the guys you could similarly act as if the went 2-5 instead of 0-7.
        Especially Azumaryu, who would probably only need like 3 or 4 wins to stay in Juryo. I think that could legally be a very tricky situation.

  3. I would hope the banzuke committee grants leniency to the rikishi who can’t compete (something along the lines of no demotion greater than 1 rank, no drop in division). As far as I understand it, the NSK doesn’t usually prevent injured or sick wrestlers from competing even if was medically advisable for a rikishi to sit out or if the illness is contagious. Just think of Ikioi. He has enough injuries for a company of men. Not that long ago, Takagenji was told to soldier on despite having the flu. If you applied those standards today, rikishi should fight on despite their COVID diagnosis. Since it’s the NSK forcing rikishi to sit out, nobody should be demoted. The NSK can’t have it both ways on this. If they demote rikishi who are forced to sit out this basho due to COVID, any promotions and demotions on the next banzuke would be tainted in my opinion.

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