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Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011
Hakuho on top again
By MARK BUCKTON
Special to The Japan Times Online
Prediction correct from the pre-basho Sumo Scribblings in that Hakuho did indeed win the yusho. He did so yet again with a day to spare as his challengers gradually fell away during the second week. Maegashira and future sanyaku man Okinoumi (11-4) were the best of the chasing bunch, before being beaten on Day 14 to guarantee Hakuho the title on the day the Mongolian's latest child was born.
Finishing with a 14-1 score, Hakuho again fell to Kisenosato, the same man who brought his 63 unbeaten run to an end in Kyushu back in November. Kisenosato himself finished with a very respectable 10-5 score at the third highest rank of sekiwake. At the same rank Kotoshogiku went 11-4.
Both men have long been earmarked for ozeki rank one day, but now in their in their 24th, and 26th years respectively might actually be starting to show their mettle. Coupled to his own Kyushu record, Kisenosato has now won 20 of the last 30 bouts. For his part, Kotoshogiku is on an identical score, and both were referred to by former Japanese yokozuna Takanohana, currently a stable master, as potentially being considered for ozeki promotion were they to win, or come close to winning the yusho in Osaka in March.
As is commonly known, sumo is in desperate need of a Japanese presence in the sanyaku region at the top of the makunouchi division. Should no Japanese win a yusho between now and the July basho in Nagoya, the return to Tokyo of the rikishi in September will see the last remaining yusho portrait of a Japanese winner removed from the Kokugikan. That man was Tochiazuma, the last effective domestic ozeki and winner of the first basho of 2006.
In the ozeki ranks, only Kotooshu secured double figures in wins with a 10-5 score. Several ranks below, Goeido, a rikishi caught up in the gambling scandal of 2010 that saw Kotomitsuki dismissed from the sport, went 11-4, and is another in the mold of Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku. His relatively small size — 183 cm and 149 kg at his last medical check — has limited his progress but this is another local lad for whom ozeki status beckons one day.
The foreign forces in the sport are of course still a far from spent force and the top division will see the debut of Kaisei in March — a Brazilian fighting out of Tomozuna Beya. Korean "elevator" rikishi Kasugao will make another appearance in the uppermost division in Osaka as well, having won the juryo division title with a 12-3 score after his fourth drop into the second rank division in just over two years.
And to close with coverage of the Hatsu Basho, more negativity involving foreign rikishi. Making headlines in the domestic press the day after the tournament proper ended was a "supposed" fracas between two of the trio of Georgian rikishi in the top division. Gagamaru, a relative newcomer to the division, has been alleged to have tussled with fellow Eastern European Kokkai, a seven-year veteran of the top flight.
The resulting damage was limited to a broken pane of glass in an Indian restaurant not too far from the Kokugikan. The fact that it occurred at breakfast time on Day 5 of the basho, after both rikishi had lost the previous day, is causing far more waves, however, as the possibility exists they had been out drinking all night. Both men should have been at their respective heya by this time, preparing for light practice before the bouts to be held later that day, when, again, both men lost!
It has been learned by Sumo Scribblings that the 2012 Sumo World Championships will be taking place in Hong Kong on dates yet to be confirmed but likely to be in October or early November. The 2011 event was announced last year and will take place in Egypt. And, still on the subject of amateur sumo, look out for an interview with one of the most respected men on the Asian (amateur) sumo scene in Sumo Scribblings over the next few months — as the season for all things ama-sumo really gets into gear.