Aki Fallout – Kisenosato 稀勢の里

kise-2

He Had Much To Gain, And Much To Loose

Heading into the Aki basho, all of Japan was riveted to Ozeki Kisenosato, and his perpetual bid to be promoted to sumo’s highest rank, Yokozuna. As any sumo fan knows, his much hyped bid failed. Worse still, a rival Ozeki, Goeido, was able to achieve a perfect record, win the tournament, and set himself on a fast track to the very promotion Kisenosato has worked so hard chasing.

The Yokozuna Run

Kisenosato has been sumo’s second highest rank, Ozeki, since 2012. He was elevated without a single tournament victory, by maintaining a steady record of second place finishes (Jun-yusho) and special prizes. For the three tournaments before his promotion, he racked up 32 wins with a 10-12-10 record, with 2 special prizes.

From here he settled into a pattern that made him a fairly solid Ozeki, only being kadoban once, and racking up several back-to-back Jun-yushos, and frequent double digit winning records. This is what an Ozeki should be doing, and he did it well. Starting in 2016, there seemed to have been a public cry that for too long there were only Mongolian Yokozuna, and the Sumo Association came under pressure to find a Japanese sumotori to wear the rope.

At the conclusion of the May 2016 tournament in Tokyo, Kisenosato had two back to back Jun-yusho, and people were starting to suggest he would become Yokozuna soon. As the meme spread, everyone associated Kisenosato with the goal that he would become the champion of Japanese sumo, the first native Yokozuna in more than a decade. The pressure on him was immense.

Nagoya

With all of Japan watching, Kisenosato went to the summer tournament in Nagoya. He defeated most of his opponents, who were surprisingly light on the Ozeki count, facing only 2. In truth, his schedule in Nagoya was very light.

He defeated an injured Hakuho on day 14, but lost badly to Harumafuji on day 13. The video below shows how little defense he was able to mount against the Yokozuna’s attack.

He also lost to two rank and file Maegashira, Tochiozan and Shohozan. While his sumo was good (he finished with a 12-3 Jun-yusho), he proved once more that he did not really have the versatility and mobility needed to handle the tough matches.

Summer Jungyo

kise-jungyo

With the hopes of Japanese sumo fans rising over the chance of a native Yokozuna, the Sumo Association held a massive summer tour. The Jungyo take sumo to the people to raise the profile and interest of sumo among the broader population. In general they are in a different city each day, holding a full day’s worth of events from practice bouts, to singing, to explanations of sumo’s traditions and techniques.

As it has in the past, the hot summer and the constant grind degraded the performance of the rikishi on tour. This was evident during the first 3 days of Aki, when many of the best from Nagoya seemed slow, rusty and off their game. Clearly it’s impact on Kisenosato – the great Japanese hope who was on the road almost every day from early August – was significant.

Soken -Yokozuna Deliberation Council

The first sign that the Yokozuna bid was in trouble came at a closed training session in front of the Yokozuna Deliberation Council, called a Soken. During this session, the council invites up and coming rikishi, Ozeki under consideration for promotion, along with current Yokozuna to practice and hold bouts for review.

soken-kise

During this session, Kisenosato horribly underperformed expectations. Harumafuji and Kisenosato fought eight matches, Kisenosato lost every one of them. He cited being exhausted from participating in summer jungyo tour.

The chairman of the council was reported to have said: “His performance was unacceptable, we really don’t expect anything from him with that kind of performance.”

But they left the door open, stating that with a tournament win (Yusho), he would be promoted.

Aki Analysis

Days before the September tournament began, news rippled across the sumo world that Yokozuna Hakuho would sit out the basho. Hakuho is one of the greatest Sumotori in history, and his presence at each tournament had prevented Kisenosato from, in the minds of most fans, from winning. With him out of the picture, Kisenosato’s backers were certain, this would be their time. Their champion could finally win a tournament and claim his tsuna.

From the first bout, it was clear that Kisenosato was not up to form. He lost his first match to Okinoumi, a rank and file Maegashira. The crowd was clearly amped up to see him start his historic run, and the shock when he lost was palpable.

After the first day shocker, he dropped a second bout on day 3 to Tochinoshin, who deployed a henka against the Ozeki. At this point, he is nursing 2 losses, and is all but mathematically eliminated from winning the tournament. Unlike Nagoya, he faced a full and fierce card in Tokyo, turning in the following performanceL

Aki Results – Kisenosato

Day 1  Loss  M1e Okinoumi 
Day 2  Win   K1w Tochiozan
Day 3  Loss  M2e Tochinoshin
Day 4  Win   M1w Yoshikaze
Day 5  Win   M3e Takanoiwa
Day 6  Win   M2w Shodai
Day 7  Win   S1w Takarafuji
Day 8  Win   M4e Myogiryu
Day 9  Win   M4w Chiyootori
Day 10 Win   O2w Kotoshogiku
Day 11 Loss  O2e Goeido 
Day 12 Win   K1e Kaisei
Day 13 Loss  Y2e Kakuryu 
Day 14 Loss  Y1e Harumafuji
Day 15 Win   O1w Terunofuji

Expectations For The Future

In failing to win or achieve runner-up status at Aki (that honor went to Endo), Kisenosato’s Yokozuna chase resets to the beginning. That means at least 3 more tournaments of grind. Hakuho is likely to return in November, and how he must contend with Goeido’s Zensho Yusho. That perfect tournament win leaves Kisenosato with the only Ozeki who has never won a tournament.

On the good side, the pressure is now off. All of the hopes of the Japanese fans wanting a native Yokozuna have been neatly transferred to Goeido, and Kisenosato is free to train up and focus on his sumo. One thing that seems to come from his high-intensity training, his stablemate Takayasu has improved greatly over the past year, and looks prepared to attempt the climb to Ozeki rank himself.

Here at Tachiai, we hope the best for Kisenosato. As both Andy and I have remarked, he is a solid Ozeki who delivers a consistent winning record. Through some bad fortune he had one of his worst tournament at the exact time that it would do the most harm to his aspirations. We look forward to see what he comes back with, and November may be the resumption of his dominant ways.

Zensho Goeido *updated*

As Bruce reported yesterday, Goeido won his first yusho. Bruce also has a great rundown today. Goeido managed it in spectacular fashion, going undefeated over the 15 days. This is obviously the biggest headline coming out of the Fall Tournament but there are many other key storylines:

  • Tokitenku intai – I’m very sad to see Tokitenku officially call it a career. The former Komusubi has not competed in the past year since his diagnosis with lymphoma.
  • Endo resurgence – Endo picked up a jun-yusho and the technique special prize with his 13 wins
  • Whispers of Ozeki Takayasu – Fighting Spirit special prize and 10 wins at sekiwake gives him a good first step. We need two more great tournaments!
  • WTF, Okinoumi? – One of the most spectacular runs ever, followed by a week of mediocrity
  • Terunofuji kadoban – I hope he heals quickly because another basho with a kadoban ozeki magically retaining his rank does harm to the sport.
  • Injuries – Will Hakuho and Osunaarashi be able to recover in time for November?

A Konishiki-sized “Thank You” to Bruce for his great reporting; I’m really looking forward to November! It’s always much more fun when I know there are others out there, like me, who enjoy professional King of the Hill.

If any of you all are in the DC area, maybe we can get a Happy Hour going?

Aki Basho Final Results

zensho

Goeido Achieves A Perfect Score

Tournament winner Goeido won on the final day (as Andy cited), making his score a perfect 15-0, or zensho-yusho, which is a fairly uncommon event in sumo, even more uncommon when it comes from someone other than Hakuho. As mentioned in an earlier post, Goeido had been facing the possibility of demotion due to his losing record in the July tournament in Nagoya. He now has an option to attempt to reach Yokozuna.

Jun-yusho (runner up) goes to Endo, who had an amazing 13-2 record. In many cases, that would have been enough to win the tournament. We will likely see Endo at a much higher rank in November’s banzuke.

Special prizes awarded

  • Shukun-sho (Outstanding Performance): Okinoumi – His opening week saw him devastate the Ozeki and Yokozuna
  • Kanto-sho (Fighting Spirit): Takayasu – Brought us some fantastic battles, including his defeat of Harumafuji on day 11
  • Gino-sho (Technique): Endo – Really outstanding sumo from Endo this tournament

Final win / loss tally

15-0  Goeido
13-2  Endo
12-3  Harumafuji
10-5  Kakuryu, Kisenosato, Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Tamawashi, Kotoyuki
9-6  Kotoshogiku, Okinoumi, Aoiyama, Kagayaki
8-7  Chiyonokuni, Shohozan, Nishikigi, Takekaze, Sadanoumi, Chiyoshoma, Kyokushuho
—————————————————————
7-8  Tochiozan, Yoshikaze, Shodai, Ikioi, Arawashi
6-9  Kaisei, Toyohibiki, Tokushoryu
5-10  Tochinoshin, Takanoiwa, Myogiryu, Sokokurai, Gagamaru, Amakaze, Daieisho
4-11  Terunofuji, Takarafuji, Daishomaru
1-14  Chiyootori(1-10-4)

Thank you dear readers for following the action here on Tachiai.  Next tournament is in November at Fukuoka.  Until then, we will work to bring you news and developments from the sum world.

Goeido – Redemption

goeido-redemption

From Kadoban to Yusho – Zensho Achieved (First in history)

Before the start of the Aki basho two weeks ago, I mockingly referred to Goeido and Kotoshogiku as the “Kadoban Twins”. Frankly both of their performance had been spotty and uneven, and I frankly predicted at least one of them would fail to achieve a winning record and would be demoted.

I was wrong

In one of the great redemption and come back stories in sports, Goeido came into Aki in danger of losing sumo’s second highest ranking, and drove himself relentlessly in every match. As noted before in Tachiai, his all out commitment to his offensive moves was dramatic, more like Hakuho, than what has been typical for Goeido of late.

On his march to total victory, he has shown surprising versatility in his winning moves, and an absolute fearless approach to sumo. The fans have loved it, as it was clear that Goeido was going to settle for nothing less than a win on every day.  I sincerely hope that Goeido can maintain this level of sumo, as it is really quite thrilling to watch. After so many years of the Japanese sumo fans yearning for strong performance from someone other than Mongolians, they may have finally found a worthy champion.

List Of Victories – Aki Basho

  • Day 1 – Tochinoshin
  • Day 2 – Shodai
  • Day 3 – Tochiozan
  • Day 4 – Takanoiwa
  • Day 5 – Takarafuji
  • Day 6 – Takayasu
  • Day 7 – Okinoumi
  • Day 8 – Yoshikaze
  • Day 9 – Aoiyama
  • Day 10 – Terunofuji
  • Day 11 – Kisenosato
  • Day 12 – Kakuryu
  • Day 13 – Harumafuji
  • Day 14 – Tamawashi
  • Day 15 – Kotoshogiku

Some facts about Goeido’s win, harvested from nikkansports.com:

  • Only the 8th time in history and kadoban Ozeki has won a tournament
  • First time ever a kadoban Ozeki has won undefeated – zensho yusho
  • First time in 86 years a rikishi from Osaka has won a tournament.
  • Only Harumafuji, Hakuho and now Goeido, out of the current sekitori, have won with a perfect record.

The video below of his win day 14 over Tamawashi, and the reaction of the crowd says it all. Congratulations to Goeido, your performance during Aki has been incredible.