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SUMO: 2017 Haru Basho (Day 9)

We roll into Week 2 of the Haru Basho with two stable-mates atop the leaderboard with perfect 8–0 records. Yokozuna Kisenosato and sekiwake Takayasu have both secured their kachi-koshi [majority of wins] in the minimum amount of time possible . . . but that’s just the start of what they’re aiming for. If they can manage to maintain their unbeaten streaks through senshuraku [the final day] the two will face each other in a playoff at the end of the regulation matches. That’s a big ask for these two, as they’ll be facing the toughest opponents here in Week 2, but given how strong they’re both performing, I’d say that it’s a very serious possibility.

There was a lot of spectacular sumo over the weekend, with a few rare kimarite [winning techniques] and some incredibly energetic performances. This only bodes well for the action in Week 2 as the rikishi fight to achieve kachi-koshi. Unlike tournaments in the recent past, there are relatively few rikishi with particularly bad records and so few who are looking desperate to stave off make-koshi [majority of losses]. And even the few who are in that camp, such as Ikioi and Ichinojo, have gotten through the toughest part of their schedules and hopefully will have a chance to turn their fortunes around.

Today’s highlight matches include:

M15 Tokushoryu (6–2) vs. M10 Tochiozan (7–1)—Tochiozan is facing about as lowly ranked an opponent as he can get, so today’s match will tell us a fair bit about his frame of mind. Whether being one behind the leaders fills him with confidence, or makes him more cautious. Whether he’s feeling hail and healthy, or whether the length of the two-week tournament is beginning to weigh on him. Basically, whether he’s got what it takes to continue to vie for the Emperor’s Cup and his first yusho!  (2:22)

Yokozuna Takanohana vs. yokozuna Akebono—Wait. What? Who?!? For some reason, today’s coverage featured a match from 1997 between the era’s two great yokozuna. (They’re probably showing it because after this match the yusho went on to be decided by a playoff . . . and this basho seems to be headed down a similar road.) Anyway, it’s a GREAT bout! (5:15)

M1 Takekaze (2–6) vs. sekiwake Takayasu (8–0)—Today it’s Takayasu’s turn to go up against one of the oldest rikishi still active in the Makuuchi Division, who has cause great stress to all the other upper ranked opponents he’s faced this tournament (he even inadvertently poked Harumafuji in the eye) . . . but hasn’t found ways to win very often. Probably more of the same today. (10:45)

M1 Ikioi (1–7) vs. ozeki Terunofuji (7–1)—With one more win, Terunofuji can erase his kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] status. That seemed like it was going to be a stretch, given how badly he had done in January’s Hatsu Basho, but Terunofuji seems to have regained the power and vigor he hasn’t seen since the middle of 2015. A win over Ikioi, which honestly hasn’t been too difficult to get this tournament, will give him his kachi-koshi and keep him one win behind the leaders. It will also saddle Ikiioi with a make-koshi. (11:35)

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku (6–2) vs. yokozuna Kisenosato (8–0)—I’ve been talking about how important each win is for Kotoshogiku on his quest to regain his ozeki ranking. However, there are some matches he’s just SUPPOSED to lose, and a match against a yokozuna falls into that category. However, he and Kisenosato have spent the last five years as equals ranked as ozeki. And in their sixty-three head-to-head matches, Kotoshogiku holds a three-win lead. So he has a real shot at handing Kisenosato his first loss since promotion and giving himself a real leg up on his goal of ten or more wins. (12:12)

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