Natsu Basho Story 1 – Top Ozeki Mitakeumi

Mitakeumi has been tough on his fans since he rose to prominence in July of 2018, taking the Nagoya basho cup in front of a raging crowd of home-town supporters. After attending Toyo University, he entered professional sumo as Makushita 10, and promptly began stomping the daylights out of just about everyone. He has always been above average, quickly rising to the san’yaku in 2016, and more or less staying there.

For years, his supporters were sure he would be Ozeki “any basho now”, but he was dependable to undergo a week 2 fade, and could not really keep his week 1 intensity into week 2. His second yusho, in September of 2019, may have surprised a few, but it was a glimpse of what what Mitakeumi could do if he stayed strong into week 2.

Late in 2021, he seemed to finally have solved his problems with endurance and consistency, and racked up a 9-6, 11-4 and a blistering 13-2 yusho run to stamp his ticket to sumo’s second highest rank. I had questions if he really had made a step change in his sumo, or was just in a good spot for once, and could string together the storied 33 wins over 3 basho goal. His first basho as Ozeki answered that, perhaps, with an 11-4 record that saw him in the running for the cup into week 2.

His 4 losses in Osaka were to

  • Kiribayama – Day 5
  • Hokutofuji – Day 10
  • Takayasu – Day 12
  • Kotonowaka – Day 14

I vividly recall his day 4 loss to Kiribayama, where he (to my eye) underestimated his opponent, and assumed his bulky mass would be sufficient defense. Mitakeumi then found not only was he wrong, but had no working plan “B” as Kiribayama hussled him across the bales. This same miscalculation seemed to play out again on day 10 against Hokutofuji, who is always dangers, as he is able to rally and surprised just about any opponent if he can get his opening.

I am sure Mitakeumi was disappointed to not be in the battle on day 15 to take the cup, but an 11-4 result from an Ozeki is a very good score. Good enough that he bypassed 9-6 Shodai and 8-7 Takakeisho to assume the lead Ozeki 1 East spot. This means that should both he and Terunofuji make it to day 15, the fight between these two should close out the basho.

Naturally Mitakeumi fans are once again making Yokozuna noises about the “Original Tadpole”, and I honestly think it comes down to that question around his endurance. Has he in fact made that step change, and we will we see 4th consecutive basho with strong week 2 performance? Japanese fans of sumo (which is most of them) would love to see another Japanese Yokozuna.

What can we expect in terms of opponents for Mitakeumi? I think he will face Takayasu on day 1, a great re-match of that day 12 match that knocked him out of the yusho race. He may follow that up with a match against Hoshoryu, who was (to my eye) a bit rough in March. I think we will see a rematch against Kiribayama sometime in act 1 (the first 5 days), and that one I have on a “must watch” list for Natsu.

5 thoughts on “Natsu Basho Story 1 – Top Ozeki Mitakeumi

  1. Mitakeumi is my pick to win the basho. With Terenofuji’s health still in question I’m having a hard time coming up with alternative winners. I think Mitakeumi is hands down better than than the other 2 Ozeki. And he did beat both Abi and Wakatakakage last basho.

  2. I think you’re looking at a situation where he was a bully to the maegashira in week 1 but he just didn’t have it in his locker to consistency top bigger opponents on more than a 50/50 basis. Clearly he has lifted his quality level to the point where he was able to achieve the consistency needed to get promotion to a level where his rank matches the level of his performance for the past few years… but that’s also coincided with a number of beatable rikishi at the same/higher rank than him.

    Yokozuna… I don’t know. It would be really surprising. This is only the second run where he’s been able to get a consecutive double-digit win in succession from sanyaku. So being able to do two yusho level performances in a row feels like years of development in front of him. You never know!

    • He has a cadre of enthusiasts who immediately started Yokozuna talk. I have my doubts too, but I am going to guess he has is goal, and we get to watch him try for it. The fact that he has 3 yusho as of today does surprise me, but he earned each of them.

      • For sure. Wouldn’t be a surprise to see him net out with a similar career end to Kaio (lengthy ozeki run, flirting with promotion on a couple occasions, handful of yusho). I know I said that years ago with respect to Takayasu when he got promoted, but Mitakeumi has been able to win tournaments and in some cases convincingly as far as his sumo is concerned.

        • I kinda hope that Mitakeumi can make that step, but you also have to note that it has almost never been easier to make a Yokozuna run. Yokozunas are mostly absent for the past 2 years due to health issues. The Ozeki … Takakeisho … I’m not even sure he is fully recovered from his first injury, but he is plagued by health issues ever since and is anything but consistent … Shodai is trying his best to make Goeido look like a dominating Ozeki and the rest of Sanyaku is in constant flux with nostly newer rikishi still establishing themselves.
          It’s not by accident that Teru with all his health problems managed to march through to Yokozuna. If Mitakeumi can’t wrap up a run soon, I think he just doesn’t have it in him. It wont get any easier. Kisenosato took a long time at Ozeki, but he had 3 Yokozuna and 2 or 3 Ozeki to go through.
          I din’t watch sumo during Kaios time, but I think he had his chance in 2001&2002 with Akebono and Wakanohana retired, Takanohana plague by injury and only Musashimaru remaining as Yokozuna, but he was overtaken by Asashoryu and soon Hakuho. After 2004 he never again even entered Yusho contention leave alone any bid of a Yokozuna run.
          Mitakeumi has already missed opportunities for the last 3 or so years against historically weak competition(due to either injury or transition). That window wont stay open for long, as you noted in another post. If Kotoshoho can find back the balance in his sumo that made him so strong before his injuries, I would probably even favor him above Hoshoryu and there are more on the rise that will make things crowded at the top in max 2 years to come from now.

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