Tachiai can now confirm the competition status of two fan favorites. First, Ura is definitely a go for competition. He is ranked Sandanme 91 West. After hideous damage to his right knee Last year at Aki, he went the route of undergoing surgery, and has been working to rebuild his body since. This will be his first time in competition in a year, and I am very curious to see how long it takes him to re-connect with his sumo. Should he step up primed and genki, there is a strong chance that lower Sandanme rikishi may find themselves quickly going down to defeat.
The matter of Terunofuji is also hopeful, but with a different course of action. The big Kaiju is sitting out Aki, having also chosen to undergo reconstructive surgery. Terunofuji has mountains of talent, and a strong work ethic. It seems that he has accepted that he is rebooting his sumo career, and at this point it won’t matter what rank he falls to, as long as he comes back strong and healthy. He is currently ranked Makushita 47, but we expect him to be out several basho.
Aki starts in about 36 hours, and frankly Team Tachiai can’t wait.
Hat tip to Herouth for digging this up via Sanspo.
It’s been a solid 2 months since we last had competition to discuss, and it seems that the schedulers set up some fantastic matches for the first day. There are so many unknowns for this tournament, and all sumo fans are eager to see 3 of the 4 active Yokozuna in action.
There are a number of rikishi with quite a bit on the line this tournament, including Takayasu who is kadoban for the first time, and our favorite kaiju, Terunofuji, who has been demoted to Ozekiwake and needs 10 wins to return to his rank. For Terunofuji especially, this is going to be a difficult tournament. There is strong evidence that he is still injured and in pain. For Takayasu, it’s unclear how far into recovery he is, but we are fairly certain he will find some way to pick up 8 wins.
What We Are Watching Day 1
Kotoyuki vs. Aminishiki – In a match that replays last tournament’s Juryo action, Uncle Sumo goes against Kotoyuki. I am guessing that for US fans, they will show this on the highlight reel. It will be quite welcome to watch him in action. One thing that was apparent while watching the May tournament in Tokyo, the crowd really loves Aminishiki. With any luck they will show some of that reaction, too. Kotoyuki looks to be over his injuries, and ready to resume fighting at top division levels.
Okinoumi vs. Asanoyama – I am going to be delighted to see how Asanoyama does in his second top division tournament. The guy has a perpetual positive attitude it seems, and one has to respect that. Okinoumi is always hit-or-miss on any day depending on how his chronic injuries are doing.
Aoiyama vs. Ikioi – At Aki, Aoiyama was ranked pretty high, and he suffered quite a bit as a result. He is much more effective at this layer of the banzuke, and should be quite competitive. I would love to see Ikioi have a good tournament, but he seems to be struggling this year.
Kaisei vs. Daieisho – Kaisei made it back to Makuuchi in September, and looked like he lost a bunch of mass. Furthermore, in the NHK segment on Tomozuna Oyakata, there were plenty of shots showing Kaisei training, and he seems to have lost still more weight. I think this indicates some good things for the man from Brazil, as he had gotten too heavy and it had begun to retard his sumo. Daieisho opened very strong at Aki, and I am eager to see if he can do it again. This will be a nice test, as Kaisei was defeated by Daieisho in both of their previous bouts.
Endo vs. Chiyomaru – Endo has quietly been getting his sumo stronger, match by match, since he had surgery over the summer. Hopefully this will inspire the badly damaged Ura that its possible to get fixed up, heal up, and return to the dohyo. Endo holds a 3-1 advantage over Chiyomaru.
Chiyonokuni vs. Ichinojo – Mighty Ichinojo seemed to actually wake up and focus on sumo during Aki, and it was great to see. I know the giant suffers from all manner of injuries due to his enormous size and weight. On the other hand, Chiyonokuni is a blistering firestorm of sumo offense, and I think Maegashira 4 is a very good rank for him. They are tied in career matches at 2-2.
Terunofuji vs. Hokutofuji – The labor of pain starts early for Terunofuji, he has never defeated Hokutofuji, who suffered a hand injury during Aki and was a shadow of his normal self. If he has returned ready and ganki, this could be tough for Terunofuji. Not only must he win, he needs to protect his injured knees in order to keep fighting in top form for the whole tournament. Thus far, Terunofuji has not found a way to defeat Hokutofuji in any of their prior matches.
Shohozan vs. Yoshikaze – Battle of the brawlers, “Big Guns” Shohozan is the underdog in this match. Yoshikaze kept his normal low profile during the jungyo, but I am quite sure he is primed for battle.
Mitakeumi vs. Tochiozan – Mitakeumi has quietly put together the second most wins this year, just behind Harumafuji. He looked vague and unfocused during Aki, and he faces a full spread of Yokozuna this time around. He warms up against Tochiozan over whom he has a 4-1 career edge.
Chiyotairyu vs. Takayasu – How healed up is Takayasu? Time to find out when he faces off against super-sized Chiyotairyu on day 1. During Aki, Chiyotairyu was showing some solid sumo and some overwhelming force, so this is not going to be easy for Takayasu in the slightest.
Goeido vs. Takakeisho – Goeido has some work to do to repair his reputation after Aki, and his day one bout against Takakeisho is a great place to start. Goeido has been looking especially sharp in both jungyo and practice, so I am expecting a lot of Goeido 2.0 this basho. Oddly enough, they are even at 1-1 for their career totals.
Kisenosato vs. Tamawashi – Is it finally time to welcome the return of Kisenosato? Almost every sumo fan in the world has their hopes pinned on his return to health and vigor. Although Tamawashi is no longer in the San’yaku slot he held for so long, he can be counted on for explosive sumo straight from the start. This will be an excellent test of just how healed up Kisenosato is.
Kotoshogiku vs. Hakuho – The boss gets to meet home-town boy Kotoshogiku on day one, and frankly I am thrilled. The Kyushu Bulldozer is easy to anticipate, but he finds ways to trap you into his sumo and make you pay. Hakuho is so fast, so clever and so skilled that it will likely be a contest between Hakuho’s trying to stay mobile, and Kotoshogiku trying to lock the Yokozuna up. Hakuho dominates their career matches 52-5.
Harumafuji vs. Onosho – Onosho is feeling fierce, and who better to temper him than the winner of the Aki yusho? Harumafuji has spent some of the intervening two months nursing himself back to health, but he spent the first week of Aki second-guessing his sumo, and dropping matches to underlings. Onosho won their only prior match, and I am sure that Harumafuji is going to make Onosho pay.
A recurring theme in the past year has been the problems with the current crop of Ozeki, and their tendency to turn in losing records. Ozeki do not get demoted when they end a tournament with a majority losing record. It is, perhaps, a nod to the great difficulty required to rack up 33 wins over the course of 3 tournaments. Instead they get a “warning” that a second consecutive losing record will demote them to Sekiwake. An Ozeki in this state is declared “Kadoban”. This in fact happened to Kotoshogiku within the last year, and he was sadly unable to resurrect his Ozeki rank in the following tournaments. He continues to fade.
Headed into Aki, both Terunofuji and Goeido are at risk of demotion. Goeido was in this status last year entering the Aki basho, and responded by racking up 15 straight victories and taking the yusho. Sadly Goeido could not parlay this into a consistent elevation in performance, and has mixed results for the following tournament. His breathtaking Aki performance led us to coin the term “Goeido 2.0”, which described what seemed to be an entirely different rikishi. He was bold, committed and attacked with a ferocity that left no room for retreat. But Goeido suffered a significant ankle injury during Hatsu, and was forced to seek treatment that included steel pins and plates.
Similarly, Terunofuji underwent surgery in June to attempt repair on his knee, an injury that frequently kept him from top performance. Sadly it was not healed enough for competition when Terunofuji began the Nagoya basho, and he soon withdrew. Since going kyujo, he retired to his native Mongolia for recovery and training, and his working hard to be in condition for the basho.
Both of these men are fierce competitors, and we hope that both of them can clear their kadoban status with style. If reports of injury among the Yokozuna hold true, it may provide some relief to both men, who would find their schedules a bit easier, and their chances of a solid winning record increased.
As blog reader, commenter and sumo super-sleuth Herouth posted in the Endo thread, there is a tiny dribble of news about another Tachiai favorite, Ozeki and sometimes Kaiju, Terunofuji. Fans will recall he withdrew from Nagoya on day 6, after winning only one of his first five matches. Terunofuji had undergone knee surgery just a few weeks before, and was clearly not healed enough to execute Ozeki level sumo.
Since withdrawing from Nagoya, he returned to his native Mongolia to rest and train. Apparently, it may have done him some good, as he is now back training with his stable (Isegahama) in Tokyo, working towards being ready for the Aki basho in just over one week.
The Ozeki was quoted in an article in Nikkan Sports, “I am going to train hard, use my sumo, and win the yusho”. This week Terunofuji has been sparring at home with Takarafuji and Homarefuji. About his kneed, he says, “I am getting used to it now, but it’s not yet quite ready. My strength is steadily returning”.
Ozeki Terunofuji enters the Aki basho as a kadoban Ozeki, at risk of losing his rank if he fails to secure a winning record. That being said, a healthy Terunofuji is a fearsome rikishi, and is capable of defeating even Hakuho, if his confidence is in place.
We look forward to a strong and competitive Terunofuji in the upcoming tournament.
On the heels of reports of Harumafuji’s pending elbow surgery, there is also news about Ozeki Terunofuji. Terunofuji has suffered increasing problems with his knees, and underwent corrective surgery in June. It was likely too soon to place his newly repaired knees under competitive stress, but the Ozeki attempted to compete in Nagoya anyhow.
Now it is reported that the knee surgery did not provide relief, and he is weighing his options. One option, obviously, is to return to surgery and attempt additional corrections. The second is the Japanese favorite of letting it “heal naturally” and hoping for the best. If he returns to surgery, he is likely to be prevented from competing in the Aki basho. He is already carrying the probationary “kadoban” tag, and missing Aki would reduce his rank to Sekiwake, with a one time chance to reclaim his Ozeki rank with 10 wins. For the next 6 weeks, Terunofuji is sitting out the summer Jungyo tour along with stable mate Harumafuji.
This would represent a huge but dramatic gamble. A healthy Terunofuji is entirely capable of 10 wins or more, but if he is unable to regain full use of that knee, his career might be more or less finished anyhow. The crew at Tachiai deeply love that big kaiju, and sincerely hope that he is able to recover and excel once more.
Ozeki and favorite kaiju Terunofuji has withdrawn from the Nagoya sumo tournament. For reasons I cannot fathom, he decided to compete in Nagoya just a short time after undergoing knee surgery to repair cumulative damage. Given his results and his visible pain at Nagoya, there was really no point in his continuing to compete.
Tachiai is still waiting for word on Kisenosato, who is also expected to withdraw today.
Video from this Nagoya basho always features one thing in every shot – the crowd desperately fanning themselves. I had heard that this event was a hot, sweaty and sticky affair. On top of that, Japan has turned it’s heat and formidable humidity to 11. The greatest and most troubling manifestation of Japan’s tropical tendencies are the catastrophic rain in western Japan, including parts of Kyushu and extreme western Honshu.
While the discomfort for the fans in the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium is quite real, the heat endured by the athletes is even more extreme. Within the dohyo awning suspended from the ceiling, There is a battery of high intensity flood lamps, cameras and microphones. These lamps are meant to light the action, and easily raise the temperature on the dohyo by 10°. So if you wonder why the rikishi are drenched in sweat when you see them either exit the arena, or in the interview room after a bout, this plays a significant part.
As anticipated, the placement of so many strong, healthy and new rikishi this high in the banzuke is creating some unpredictable results in the first third of Nagoya. Readers of this site know that it is my theory that any basho follows a fairly predictable evolution, that can be thought of as 5 day “thirds”. The first third is the warm up, the second is the heart of the competition, where you see who is hot and who is not, and the final third determines the yusho. The roster of who is in Makuuchi has been surprisingly stable for at least a year, and so the pace and contests within each day’s torikumi can feel almost familiar.
With this much new talent in the top Maegashira, it’s a surprise each day. First time match up coupled with raw talent, uninjured rikishi scrapping to make their mark on the sport they will likely dominate for the next decade or so. Let the chaos cauldron continue to boil! Nagoya is just getting started!
Matches We Like
Nishikigi vs Chiyomaru – Both have started the basho with two wins, and both are Maegashira 15. Looks like it’s time to sort these two on the clay.
Arawashi vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji as never lost to Arawashi, but Arawashi has won his first two bouts of the basho. I would expect that Arawashi will need to do something to escape Takarafuji superior reach and complete lack of neck.
Aoiyama vs Ishiura – Classic sumo big man / little man match. We have yet to see any real sumo from Ishiura this tournament, and it would warm the hearts of many fans to see these two provide a good battle. This is, in fact, their first match.
Ichinojo vs Onosho – Another big man / little man match, Onosho has really been high energy and dangerous since May. As always Ichinojo is hit or miss. Another of the great first ever meetings between these two.
Ura vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki has been struggling to get his sumo running in Nagoya. Now he is up against Ura, who has dialed back the acrobatics and is winning with solid sumo fundamentals. Perhaps today Ura will unleash some of his non newtonian physics for the fans.
Tamawashi vs Yoshikaze – Both rikishi are coming into the match with two win starts, and this one could be one of the better matches of the day. Yoshikaze has been surprisingly deliberate in his two prior wins. Tamawashi has been unleashing explosive sumo from the start, and making it work. Their career match ups are essentially even, so this could be a real battle.
Mitakeumi vs Goeido – Mitakeumi has only beaten Goeido once before, but Mitakeumi could care less. Mitakeumi is starting to remind me of a Honey Badger now. Goeido is getting into a really troublesome mode right now, I had jokingly nominated him for kadoban, but he seems to be on a fast track this time.
Terunofuji vs Ikioi – One could imagine a healthy Terunofuji would stop by the Ryogoku McDonalds for some dipping sauce to enjoy with what was left of Ikioi. But it’s clear that the big Ozeki is injured. Ikioi could really use the win, so it will be somewhat unpleasant to see what happens here. Surprisingly, Ikioi leads their career bout record 7-2.
Takayasu vs Kotoshogiku – Another cringe inducing match. As we stated before we hate watching Kotoshogiku suffer, but he insists on turning up to compete. But for Takayasu, he needs to settle down and produce Ozeki class result. Hopefully Ojisan Kotoshogiku will provide him with a good match.
Takakeisho vs Harumafuji – We can assume after the first two days that Harumafuji has some medical / mechanical issues in Nagoya. The question is does he soldier on? Takakeisho is a big mystery here, this is their first ever match, and he is both nervous and fired up.
Hakuho vs Shodai – The boss is looking for win #1039 on his march to the record. Shodai will likely provide some contest for a few seconds, but I expect Hakuho to dispatch him. Short of injury, Hakuho is making the case that he will be the man to beat.
Hokutofuji vs Kakuryu – Another potential for a great match. These two are meeting for the first time, and we will have two rikishi who have mass, strength and a great defensive approach to sumo. Sure Hokutofuji can implement a masterful attack, but I am expecting to recognize that a match with Big K is going to be a game of cat and mouse.
Kisenosato vs Tochinoshin – Someone is going to really hurt Kisenosato, I fear. And with the overwhelming strength of Tochinoshin, I fear this could be the match that unleashes agony for the Yokozuna and the Japanese sumo loving public. If The Great Pumpkin can make it through this match and even win, it would do a lot to shut people like me up, who think his current left arm is some cutting edge robotic attachment from the labs at Tohoku University.