Akebono New Year Update

While we are waiting for the last basho of the Heisei era, Sports Hochi published a series of articles featuring the 64th Yokozuna Akebono, one of the leading figures to usher in this era, interviewed at the hospital where he is currently admitted.

Akebono with a copy of Sumo Journal covering Takanohana’s retirement

I thought I should share this with the readers of Tachiai, as information about the ailing former Yokozuna has been scarce. If you recall, Akebono has been active in his pro-wrestling career and in social media, when suddenly, in April 2017, He seemed to have dropped off the face of the Earth. One news source revealed that he suffered heart failure and was in an induced coma. His family denied this at the time, claiming he suffered from a leg infection, but in fact, the original report has been true. Since then we have learned that he regained consciousness and was undergoing rehabilitation, but the full situation remained unclear. This Hochi article helps put things in order.

As it turns out, he was feeling unwell for a while when he had his last pro-wrestling event at Omuta, Fukuoka. Following the event, back in his hotel, he started feeling chest pains. The next day, April 12th 2017, he went to the hospital (by car, not ambulance), and walked on his own feet to the examination room. However, in mid-examination, he lost consciousness and went into cardiac arrest. His heart stopped beating for 37 minutes.

His daughter, Caitlyn, who is studying in Hawaii, took a flight back to Japan, and together with her brothers, Cody and Connor, joined their mother, Christine, in the care of their father, until he regained his consciousness on April 25th. During this time he was transferred, in a two-day overland journey, from the Fukuoka hospital to a Tokyo facility.

The former Yokozuna weighed 210kg, but his weight dropped during his hospitalization as low as 130kg, though now he has gained some back and weighs at 150kg. He suffers memory loss, and has lost the use of his legs. At first, when he gained consciousness, he mistook his own sons for his two brothers, George and Randy. This was quite a shock for his wife, Christine. He seemed to have switched back to his childhood. She decided to think of it as if she gained a third, big son.

Akebono recalls little of his restless pro-wrestling days, but he recollects his Yokozuna days well, and remembered the author of the Hochi articles, who used to be his personal beat reporter. He can move himself in his wheelchair by his own power. He exercises walking, but only when externally held upright. He has some difficulty communicating. He speaks in short sentences: “good times”, “I remember”, etc., and his wife helps him with some English mixed in with Japanese.

This post is mostly based on the first article in the series. The other articles are a walk down memory lane.

(Yeah, the titles of these articles are somewhat Waka-Taka centered…)

Kakuryu to be absent from Kyushu Basho

Izutsu Oyakata announced today that his deshi, Yokozuna Kakuryu, is going to be kyujo from the Kyushu 2018 basho.

This announcement shortly follows Hakuho’s similar announcement. As a result, Kisenosato is going to be sole Yokozuna for the first time in his career.

Kakuryu has been complaining for a few weeks now about his old right ankle injury, which caused him to absent himself from the 2017 Nagoya tournament. Until recently, that old injury has been manageable, in the sense that any swelling following extended activity soon settled, and the Yokozuna could function as normally as any veteran rikishi with cumulative damage can.

However, since the middle of the most recent Jungyo, the swelling would just not go away. Although the Yokozuna participated in daily practice with other sekitori, and seems to be able to do high-level sumo, his stablemaster notes that he cannot stomp shiko with force, and that the doctor said that the type of action he is supposed to face in the second half of the basho might be too harsh.

Tachiai wishes Kakuryu good health, and hopes that he takes appropriate steps to heal himself. We also wish Kisenosato much success handling sole Yokozuna duties in the coming basho.


Hakuho to be absent from Kyusho basho

Hakuho trains post-operation

Miyagino oyakata, Hakuho’s stablemaster, announced today that the Yokozuna will be absent from the Kyushu basho due to the condition of his knee.

This announcement should come as no surprise to our readers. On October 12, the Yokozuna left the Jungyo and returned to Tokyo, after it turned out that a bone fragment, a remainder from his injury during the Nagoya basho, is loose in his knee and gives him debilitating pain.

The Yokozuna underwent double endoscopic surgery on October 18th. He had the bone fragment removed from his knee, and at the same time had floating pieces of cartilage removed from his ankle on the same side.

Following that operation and the required rest, the Yokozuna has not had actual training bouts in over a month, and even his basic workouts have been severely limited and far between.

We at Tachiai wish the Yokozuna to return healthy and in good shape in the Hatsu basho.


News Flash: Hakuho leaves Jungyo over knee bone fracture

hakuho
Hakuho as photographed Oct 11

As the Jungyo reports I publish here lag a few days behind schedule, the readers may not be aware that Hakuho has been off the Torikumi for the past three days. The reason for this was pains in his right knee, which you can see taped in the photo above.

Although he tried to gambarize, eventually he went to have his knee examined in Tokyo. It turned out that a part of his tibia (tibial tubercle?) has broken off. He published his X-ray in his Twitter account:

In the tweet he announces his kyujo, apologizes to the fans awaiting him in the various Jungyo locations, and says he will be undergoing rehabilitation/care.

This puts his participation in Kyushu in jeopardy, as healing from a fracture may take several weeks and he will need time to train back to Yokozuna level of sumo.

We wish the dai-Yokozuna speedy recovery.