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Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010
Excellent sumo, smaller crowds
After the Japan Sumo Association was rattled by scandals earlier this year, yokozuna Hakuho performed with outstanding speed, skills and stability at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament, showing that he is a great force in the JSA's efforts to get back people's trust in the traditional sport. He finished with a 15-0 record and grabbed his 16th Emperor's Cup.
He became the first sumo wrestler to go undefeated for four straight tournaments since 1958, when the current system of six tournaments a year was introduced. He also matched the record of eight undefeated titles held by former yokozuna Taiho and the legendary yokozuna Futabayama.
More importantly, Hakuho extended his winning streak to 62 bouts, beating the record of 53 consecutive wins under the six-tourney system held by former yokozuna Chiyonofuji. He is only seven wins from matching the great record of 69 straight wins established by Futabayama in 1936-39. In those years, there were only two tourneys a year.
In the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament to be held in November, Hakuho will aim to match and surpass Futabayama in the number of consecutive wins. From his performance in the ring, it is clear that as a yokozuna, he is clearly doing his utmost to maintain the sumo tradition and bring back people's interest in the sport. It is hoped that Hakuho will give full play to his fighting ability without losing stability psychologically.
Mr. Takuhiko Tsuruta, head of the Yokozuna Promotion Council, called Hakuho a "great yokozuna" and said, "We have not seen such a yokozuna in recent years."
Unfortunately, despite Hakuho's feat, attendance at Ryogoku Kokugikan Hall where the autumn tournament was held was not good. The hall was filled to capacity only on four days, including the last day. In contrast, during the autumn tournament of 2009, there were eight such days.
To increase sumo's popularity, JSA may need better public relations. But the most important thing is that all other sumo wrestlers compete with a strong fighting spirit that excites viewers. The JSA must solicit and nurture powerful new fighters.