The Nihon Sumo Kyokai released the Day 1 & Day 2 schedule for the top division, as well as the Day 1 schedule for Juryo, and in-so-doing confirmed that Yokozuna Terunofuji would be absent. Unfortunately, this has become rather normal but we are heartened that at least some of the No-Zeki drama has been put to rest as Takakeisho will participate and he is joined by two fellow Ozeki. Both he and Kirishima aim to clear their kadoban status (must have winning records or will be demoted to Sekiwake) but shin-Ozeki Hoshoryu will be eager to follow up his yusho with a strong performance in Tokyo.
Despite Terunofuji’s kyujo, there will be night full of interesting match-ups, culminating in Kirishima vs Tobizaru for the musubi-no-ichiban. There looks to be a lot of risk for upsets so many fans will probably be relieved if the three Ozeki start out strong. However, I have circled the Nishikigi/Tamawashi bout as a potential highlight. We will quickly learn how ready Nishikigi is after the injury suffered during last week’s open practice.
Asanoyama can potentially start his own Ozeki run with an exceptionally strong tournament from Maegashira 2. I know many of his fans are eager to see if he can quickly reclaim his former rank. Injuries are certainly taking their toll, though. But if we are realistic, this is the first opportunity he has to start making moves for Ozeki. There have been rare promotions where Ozeki runs begin from, or near, the top of the rank-and-file. He’ll face Wakamotoharu in his opener, whose own promotion hopes withered in the heat of Nagoya. Daieisho will also be starting from zero this tournament as he faces Meisei. Kotonowaka will face Shodai, who seems to be more reliable as a spoiler than anything. Will one of these four men be the next Ozeki? Will any be promoted by Osaka, or much later?
Hakuōho, Miyagino-beya’s rookie sensation, has had surgery on his shoulder and will not compete in the upcoming Aki-basho. The shoulder injury is a subluxation of the left shoulder, or partial dislocation. It is a common injury among athletes in sports like boxing and American football. Non-surgical treatment includes icing to reduce swelling, medication for pain, wearing a sling, and limiting motion to avoid recurrence. This is followed by physical therapy and exercises to target strengthening the muscles associated with stabilization of the shoulder.
He had injured his right shoulder in high school and had surgery on it prior to “going pro.” But we’ve all seen the massive tape wrapping on his left shoulder recently, and we’ve seen him grimace in pain several times after bouts. He had been kyujo from the summer jungyo due to the injury and a desire to allow it to heal without surgery. However, the pain continued and he decided to have surgery, which was performed on August 31.
According to this study of NFL shoulder instability injuries, surgery may help limit risk of recurrence or extend the period of time he will be able to compete before suffering a recurrence. This study also mentions some of the benefits but also discusses the substantially longer time to “return to play” for those who opt for surgery, compared to those who do not. If he’s out for 26-36 weeks (the optimistic to average timelines from the study) that will mean he will not compete until March or May.
Hopefully the fact that it’s a partial dislocation may help mitigate some of the risks? I do not have details of his case or operation, whether it was performed arthroscopic or open, which seems to make a difference. These should also be assessed on a case-by-case basis, obviously. But it’s safe to say he will be out for the rest of the year.
He will fall to Juryo in November, likely Makushita in January and March. If he’s out until May, he might come back in Sandanme. His goal, however, is not just to be in Makuuchi. Clearly, hopes are pinned on him becoming Ozeki or Yokozuna. The current Yokozuna serves as an example that such comebacks are possible.
Our fears were justified. Word trickled in during the early bouts that Takakeisho would be absent due to a neck injury suffered during last night’s bout with Ichinojo. The injury itself wasn’t too scary, it seemed a rather normal tachiai at the start. But Takakeisho’s reaction, the “what just happened?” stare as he rode Ichinojo’s shoulder out of the ring and then collapsed in a heap, the sumo fan world hopes he will be okay. This injury is not one which will see him make a quick comeback in the second half of the tournament. He will be kadoban next tournament.
The other big story of the day is the return of Takayasu after missing the first two days due to a back injury suffered in practice last week. He is nominally on an ozeki run, but odds on that are just about 0 as he spotted the field a two-win headstart. He’s not mathematically out as 13-2 has been good enough for a yusho lately and would put him right on the 33-win yardstick/rule-of-thumb we fans use (but isn’t really a rule). At this point, he’s probably just thinking that he needs to perform. If he is to become Ozeki, he’s got a solid start to a run but may need another strong tournament after this one…but he still needs this to be a strong tournament. Otherwise, his hopes are likely dashed.
Ichiyamamoto (2-1) defeated Yutakayama (2-1): Ichiyamamoto established his style sumo from the outset, blasting Yutakayama about the head and shoulders. Then going for the slapdown win. Hatakikomi.
Chiyonokuni (2-1) defeated Ishiura (0-3): High energy tsuppari from both rikishi. Ishiura cornered Chiyonokuni against the tawara but could not establish any force which would move Chiyonokuni back and out. Instead, Chiyonokuni continued blasting with tsuppari and slapped Ishiura down. Hatakikomi.
Tsurugisho (3-0) defeated Tokushoryu (2-1): Tsurugisho blasted Tokushoryu at the tachiai and did not relent. Despite failing with the early slapdown attempt, Tokushoryu was overwhelmed, and quickly exited, stage right. Yorikiri.
Daiamami (1-2) defeated Chiyonoo (1-2): Daiamami turned things around and picked up his first win with a straight forward force out. Four bouts, four overpowered opponents. Chiyonoo offered token resistance as Daiamami established a grip with both hands on Chiyonoo’s belt and backed him out. Yorikiri.
Ura (2-1) defeated Chiyomaru (1-2): Chiyomaru went for the early slapdown. After the initial flourish, the two settled into a grapple. For Ura, this was a waiting game. Ura slapped Chiyomaru’s arm down and as Chiyomaru tried to recover, Ura pressed forward with his attack. With both arms around Chiyomaru’s girth, Ura used his low position to keep Chiyomaru high, and backed him out. Yorikiri.
Kagayaki (2-1) defeated Tochinoshin (0-3): As Kagayaki moved forward, Tochinoshin tried to force Kagayaki down. Kagayaki powered through and pushed Tochinoshin out easily. This start does not bode well for Tochinoshin. Oshidashi.
Kotonowaka (3-0) defeated Terutsuyoshi (1-2): Kotonowaka broke the pattern and forced Terutsuyoshi down at the tachiai for the quickest win so far. As Terutsuyoshi moved forward, Kotonowaka attacked his shoulders from above and shoved. Hikiotoshi.
Kaisei (1-2) defeated Shimanoumi (1-2): Shimanoumi launched out with a strong initial charge but Kaisei moved forward with his powerful upperbody attack. Shimanoumi’s weak slap did not slow Kaisei at all as he thrust Shimanoumi out. Tsukidashi.
Tamawashi (3-0) defeated Hidenoumi (1-2): Tamawashi forced Hidenoumi back to the edge with tsuppari and a strong nodowa. However, Hidenoumi resisted at the edge. As he rotated and cornered Tamawashi, Tamawashi’s tsuppari morphed into an armbreaker. Tamawashi pivoted with the pressure on Hidenoumi’s shoulder forcing him down and out. Kotenage.
Takarafuji (1-2) defeated Aoiyama (1-2): Aoiyama was the aggressor, battering Takarafuji and pushing forward. The V-twin seemed stuck in second gear, however. At the edge, Takarafuji twisted and threw Aoiyama down. Sukuinage.
Myogiryu (1-2) defeated Chiyoshoma (2-1): After a matta, we got a brawl from a pair of Tasmanian Devils, circling around the ring, battering each other with slaps. Chiyoshoma let up and pulled but Myogiryu bulled forward through the attempted slap down, sending both men crashing into the shimpan. Myogiryu was a bit slow to get up and could not really squat well to acknowledge his victory. Myogiryu got his first win but it may have come at great cost. Oshitaoshi.
Halftime break: Someone open a window! It’s a bit stuffy in here…and what’s that smell? Hopefully someone can clear the air there in Dolphins Arena. Time to head to the fridge for some coffee.
Kiribayama (2-1) defeated Onosho (1-2): We started out with a brawl and as Onosho chased Kiribayama around the ring, Kiribayama had enough and wrapped up Onosho. “I’m tired of this oshi-tsuki stuff.” A solid right-hand grip from Kiribayama on Onosho’s belt and he ushered Onosho back and over the edge. Yorikiri.
Okinoumi (2-1) defeated Hoshoryu (2-1): Okinoumi valiantly resisted the early throw and turned the tables with his own attack. Okinoumi attempted to crush Hoshoryu, bringing all of his weight and force down on his opponent. Hoshoryu would not go down easy. Concern for Hoshoryu’s knee as it seemed to buckle as Okinoumi rolled Hoshoryu over. Makiotoshi.
Kotoeko (2-1) defeated Chiyotairyu (1-2): INASU. Where’d he go? Chiyotairyu pressed forward but Kotoeko vanished in thin air, reappearing behind Chiyotairyu. Well, that’s how it would have appeared for Chiyotairyu. Kotoeko shifted beautifully as Chiyotairyu charged forward. Kotoeko dodged, got in behind, and then gently pushed Chiyotairyu out for the easy oshidashi.
Wakatakakage (1-2) defeated Tobizaru (1-2): Wakatakakage pushed Tobizaru back at the tachiai, getting Tobizaru to stand vertically. Then, Wakatakakage pulled down hard on Tobizaru’s shoulders, forcing him down. Hikiotoshi.
Mitakeumi (2-1) defeated Hokutofuji (2-1): Big man sumo here. Hokutofuji pressed forward, squeezing hard on Mitakeumi’s left arm with his right as he tried to prevent Mitakeumi from getting inside. When backed to the edge, Mitakeumi got inside, got the belt grip and launched forward. Yet again, the tawara offered enough resistance to stop the pair from going out and the two settled into a grapple. As Mitakeumi crab walked Hokutofuji to the edge, Hokutofuji tried a last-minute twisting throw but Mitakeumi powered through, forcing Hokutofuji out. Both were slow to get up, and I don’t think either saw which direction the gunbai pointed. Yorikiri.
Takayasu (1-0-2) defeated Ichinojo (2-1): Takayasu weathered the storm from Ichinojo. I don’t think Ichinojo has quite figured out the art of tsuppari. He can grab and throw but he’s not a brawler. He tried a kotenage but Takayasu escaped and pivoted. So as the pair travelled coast-to-coast, Ichinojo tired. Takayasu pressed forward and forced him out. Yorikiri.
Meisei (1-2) fusen win over Takakeisho (1-2): As Bruce feared, Takakeisho is done for the tournament with a scary neck injury suffered during his bout with Ichinojo. We hope hope this injury is not a longer term concern. The sumo world awaits news on the severity of the injury.
Terunofuji (3-0) defeated Takanosho (0-3): An exciting, evenly matched, back-and-forth bout. The match was really two bouts, a fast-paced brawl that ended in stalemate, and a patient waiting game that ended with a beautiful throw. The video below, though, only catches the ending. It picks up as both men needed to recover from the exertion from running around, so they gathered at the center, heads together, waiting. Terunofuji, with a flick, put an end to the suspense. Terunofuji took Takanosho by the hand and rolled him over. Kainahineri.
Endo (1-2) defeated Shodai (2-1): That was not Ozeki sumo. What was that? Endo hit with a solid shoulder at the tachiai. As Shodai came in high…and apparently wanted to get higher?!?! Shodai peeked up like he was going to go up and over Endo. But Endo had no time to wait for Shodai to figure out what he wanted to do, or to call his ACME sales rep, so he ducked to the side and the “Ozeki” stumbled forward. Endo then finished him off thrusting him down. Tsukiotoshi.
Hakuho (3-0) defeated Daieisho (0-3): Harite, then a shoulder blast at the tachiai. Hakuho caught Daieisho by the shoulder and spun him down. Geez, he’s a master technician. We can see that he’s walking a bit gingerly, he sure can’t put the weight of two men on that leg but this was no contest. Wham, bam, thank you bodyslam. Sukuinage.
Unfortunately, we saw that coming. Despite strong threats on his survival as a yokozuna, Kakuryu never made it clear he would actually participate in 2021’s first Basho, and raised lasting concerns about his body condition.
So the news just came. Yokozuna Kakuryu is kyujo for the Hatsu Basho 2021.
Fans wishing for a fantastic finale at the January tournament will be left disappointed. Indeed, we learned yesterday that the full Miyagino heya wouldn’t participate, too, meaning Hakuho is also sidelined. But contrary to his rival, Hakuho’s chance of having another free card, for now, are higher.
Kakuryu’s news also mean we’ll witness yet another nokozuna this tournament.
It may well not be the only one in 2021, unfortunately.