Injured Sandanme Rikishi Hibikiryu Has Died

I scarcely believe this report, and I dearly hope its proven to be completely wrong. But from Team Tachiai contributor Nicola, this heartbreaking post on Instagram

We devoted a 20 minute podcast segment to this terrible incident, and the clumsy reaction from the NSK staff. Now it seems that leaving a critically injured man face down on the dohyo for several minutes while you get a clue can, in fact, be fatal.

I love sumo, but this should be considered a huge loss of face for everyone involved. Yes, people get hurt in sumo – its a combat sport. But that’s why its unthinkable that the world’s greatest sumo institution would not be ready every day, every match for someone to be injured, and be able to respond correctly in an instant.

23 thoughts on “Injured Sandanme Rikishi Hibikiryu Has Died

  1. It’s true, confirmed by multiple media sources here. Late last year, I predicted that Terunofuji’s return to Ozeki would be the “sumo story of 2021”. I added, “… I hope”. In the context of the pandemic, I was afraid that any bigger story could be very bad news. This is different, but is the Terunofuji-beating story that I had feared.

    • Sadly, I think you will be right. Terunofuji’s story will be bigger in the press by orders of magnitude while this case calls for an investigation and practical advancement in readiness and ringside medical care.

    • This is different, but is the Terunofuji-beating story that I had feared.

      It’s on the main page of bbc.com, for what it’s worth.

      • The BBC referred to the injury as a “concussion”. That isn’t a correct term for what happened, is it? Spinal injury?

        • The Sumo Soul figured it out that they may have conflated Shonannoumi (concussion) with Hibikiryu.

  2. The amount of Sadness I feel is only matched by the sheer amount of Anger I feel as well. The level of unprepared incompetence when he was injured is horrifying. Would thing of been different had they had a proper response team? We can’t say for sure, but I feel there would of been a better chance for him to live. People have been saying for a long time this was going to happen, Heck I’m curious how often this may of happened before now and we didn’t know because getting to see the full Basho openly hasn’t really been a thing for to long.

    They need to fix something, the next step from here? Someone dies on the Dohyo, and given this sport’s nature, it’s a matter of time.

  3. Chris Sumo did a video on it, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him cover a false story, even by accident. He described it as a story that makes one sick to one’s stomach. My youngest sister is the same age, so maybe I’m taking it worse for that reason…

    I can’t help but think that, had this happened in America, the NSK would’ve been sued for negligence at the very minimum…

    • I’m hoping there’s still some way for the NSK to be sued for negligence. Or, even if they can’t be sued, that someone tries, and this whole debacle stays in the news. Having their ineptitude and callousness aired over and over in public may be the only way to get sufficient pressure to force the NSK to make any changes.

      Also, here’s hoping that Imafuku doesn’t suffer lasting psychological harm. It looked like he fought a clean bout.

  4. I first received the news of Hibikiryu’s death with great sadness via Chris Sumo’s channel a few hours ago. As Chris lives in Japan and reads and speaks Japanese I had no reason to doubt it. Also I find his reporting of the incident very tactful and respectful.
    This is the saddest day since I started watching sumo in the good old days of Eurosport reporting
    Words fail me, my heart goes out to his parents and siblings (?).
    One wonders how and if his fellow rikishi from Sakaigawa Beya will be able rationalize this event, let alone his opponent in this fateful match.

  5. Unthinkable, sickening, borderline criminal negligence. My prayers for Hibikiryu’s family. I am gutted by this horrible news.

  6. My truest condolences to Hibikiryu’s family and friends. I have been PRAYING, and PRAYING, and PRAYING that he would mend…and his quality of life wouldn’t be too terribly affected. This. Is. So. Heartbreaking. I TOTALLY agree with Bruce and others that SOMETHING HAS TO BE DONE! This is bulls**t that the sumo authority didn’t move fast enough…or had some kind of medical plan in place in potentially dire situations like this on the dohyo! I’m sorry, all…this is very upsetting to me. I wish Hibikiryu to celestially soar high and far along whatever spiritual path his journey begins on.

  7. When i read the news this morning i was speechless. He seemed to be on a good way to recovery but then this happened.
    I don’t really know what to say and I think it would be wrong to just be looking for someone to blame now. A young man died and that itself is sad enough. But I already feel that his death will be without consequence and that makes ne sick in the stomach…

  8. That is terrible, and I feel for his family and friends. Rest in power, Hibikiryu.
    I hope the pressure generated by this will at least lead to better medical care being available ringside, but it’s a tragedy that Hibikiryu didn’t benefit from prompt, expert care in the first place. Lacking regard for the wellbeing of rikishi led me to stop watching sumo many years ago, and if things do not significantly improve, it may be time for another break sadly.

      • Me too.

        A bunch of old guys trying to discourage anybody from doing anything only to stay in power.

        John Gunning has written that domination of Hakuho is unprecedented in any sport, but sumo in total has only about 700 participants. But 700 people play football in any village next to my city.

        Who will join sumo now? Foreigners are discouraged, Hakuho is disrespected, most wrestlers are unpaid. Now we know that they even don’t have proper healthcare or medical aid.

        Orora (the heaviest wrestler) has written after finishing his career that nobody in sumo cares about your health. In any football club health of a player is the most important thing. Think of how Neymar or Messi are treated when they have only suspicion of injury.

        I hoped that sumo would open to the world and become a proper sport. It has everything to succeed – has simple rules and is one of only few full-contact combat sports.

        But the so-called elders want to make a heritage park from it. Now it looks that they are going to succeed.

  9. What will it take the NSK for them to make a move towards basic safety rules, like having a doctor or medical stuff around the dohyo, or even just implement a simple process (not a couple guys looking at themselves without knowing what to do) that could SAVE LIVES ?!?
    They should feel ashamed since it’s not a recent problem. And now it escalated to a dead rikishi.
    And I’m afraid less and less kids apply for sumo in the future after such a scandal…

  10. Straight up, the way Sumo handles injuries and medical procedures is borderline barbaric in 2021. We know sports science, we know medical science, but they refuse to apply even basic concepts of it. They don’t allow time off for injuries, they don’t understand how to apply basic medical care to fighters, or worse they don’t want to because it’d ruin the image of the sport in their eyes.

    Someone like Ura nearly ended their career because of how the system is set up to basically force a rikishi to wrestle until they can’t move anymore. He probably still won’t last much longer given how he looks sometimes. And then a situation like this where they don’t understand or have the desire to apply medical expertise to ultimately save a wrestler’s life? Why? For tough guy machismo? To protect the sanctity of the ring? What’s their justification? How many wrestlers need to suffer, have their careers derailed or in this case die before they overall their idiotic concepts of handling medical?

  11. This is tragic. I for one will not be watching sumo during the next basho. Celebrating sumo so soon after this incident feels disrespectful towards Hibikiryu. I hope his death will spark the sumo association to take rikishi health more seriously.

    • I don’t know if I’m going to be able to watch this basho, either. Not on principle (me watching or not makes no difference) but because I’m just so scared of seeing something like that again. It’s really gotten under my skin. When I see sumo footage that looks like lower-division coverage my knee-jerk response is to quickly close the window or scroll past so I don’t see. It sounds so silly but I think it’s really freaked me out. I don’t know how I’m going to feel when the basho starts. What happened to Hibikiryu is just too awful. I know it’s probably a once in decades or hundreds of years thing but the thought of it happening to anyone else is just unbearable

      • This. I love sumo and have nothing but respect for the athletes… but I honestly can’t say the same appears to be the case with the Sumo Association at this point. This is a pointless tragedy and if this is the Association’s idea of “tradition,” I don’t think it’s worth honoring.

  12. Did I already submit this comment? If so, I apologise but for what it’s worth, I will be boycotting the upcoming tournament as a form of protest against the governing body’s inability to appreciate the value of modern first aid in support of its injured athletes.

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