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Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Dominance, Underperformers and Yogurt!
By MARK BUCKTON
Special to The Japan Times Online
Exactly what happened on Sunday evening at the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium is simple -- Asashoryu won his 17th Emperor's Cup to date and his second this year, Hakuho came up short despite his victory over the yokozuna and will not be promoted to yokozuna for the September tournament in Tokyo and Miyabiyama let the chance to return to ozeki slip through his fingers thanks to a poor showing in the first few days.
The Internet sites were, still are, alight with many newer fans confused and asking "what if," "but what about..." and the like but when all is said and done, when the armchair yokozuna we all become during honbasho let our tempers cool, the fact remains that none of the aforementioned will be ranked any differently come August 28th and the release of the Aki Basho Banzuke.
Below the so near yet so far, will he or won't he basho Hakuho put together, his fellow ozeki had their usual "enough to get by while doing nothing outstanding" tournaments. Tochiazuma started well but finished poorly, and after shaking off his kadoban status by achieving his kachikoshi winning record on Day 8 he then lost the next 7 fights to end with a rather lame 8-7.
Kaio and Chiyotaikai were also in relatively good form during the first week or so but age played its part as the basho wore on and both were left with identical 9-6 records -- a tad shy of the 10 wins ozeki are supposed to turn out each basho.
As for Kotooshu, it may be his knee, it may be something else but he'd better pick up his game or the Japanese tour company that has added his childhood home (I kid you not) to the list of "sights" worth seeing in Bulgaria may replace it with a visit to something deemed more worthwhile instead -- a yogurt factory perhaps! Barely escaping a makekoshi losing record in Nagoya, he once again picked up his scrape-by 8th win on the final day -- against Tochiazuma!
A dominant yokozuna, predominantly underperforming ozeki and yogurt aside, it was an event off the dohyo that will put this basho in the history books after Russian maegashira Roho reacted to a Day 7 exchange of words with ozeki Chiyotaikai by slapping a photographer and removing a pane of glass from its frame -- with his fist -- and was duly awarded a three-day compulsory leave pass for his troubles. Ironically, when all had calmed, and as Roho sat at home nursing his wounded pride, Day 8 saw Chiyotaikai go head to head with his brother, Hakurozan. The ozeki won and the headline writers moved on.
Mongolian and Japanese komusubi newbies Asasekiryu and Kisenosato were chewed up and spat out by their elders and betters in the first few days although the Ibaraki youngster did knock off Kotooshu and Kaio on his way to a respectable 8-7. Asasekiryu, after defeating Hakuho on shonichi dropped out on Day 3 and has not been seen since.
Estonian maegashira Baruto excited many by putting in a solid 5-3 come the middle Sunday. For some reason he then lost focus and dropped a few before securing his winning record on Day 14 at the expense of Tamakasuga; his last kachikoshi as a Mihogaseki Beya rikishi as he, Satoyama (9-6) in juryo and makushita yusho winner Shiraishi (7-0) will all be moving to the newly formed Onoe Beya in Tokyo's Ota-ku prior to the next basho.
At maegashira 10, Tamanoshima put in an impressive 11-4 and was still in the championship race on day 14 until he lost to Dejima. For his efforts he received a Kanto-sho Fighting Spirit Prize and will be back up nearer to sanyaku in September.
Juryo was the usual mixed bag but with no real up and comers to watch, Hochiyama of Sakaigawa Beya came good in just his third sekitori basho to take the division title with a 13-2 record. Oga meanwhile raised a few eyebrows as the yumitori bow twirler won his first six, looked well on course for a kachikoshi and then lost the next nine! Rumors that he is related to Tochiazuma are still being investigated.
Beyond the sekitori rankings, in a place the rikishi go without a regular salary, Shiraishi's unbeaten makushita record ensured him a major boost up the ranks while sandanme went the way of Daitensho of Takashima Beya, jonidan to Matsugane Beya man Matsutani and jonokuchi to a rikishi who broke his neck not too long ago but has now returned to form -- Oomiyamoto of Kokonoe Beya.