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SUMO: 2017 Kyushu Basho (Day 10)

It’s Day 10 of the Kyushu Basho, and there’s a significant change on the leaderboard. Oh, not at the very top. Yokozuna Hakuho still is all alone there with a perfect 9–0 record. The change is that ALL of the rikishi who were immediately behind Hakuho lost yesterday, creating a two-win gap between him and his closest competition. There are currently six rikishi with 7–2 records—ozeki Goeido, M1 Tamawashi, M3 Hokutofuji, M4 Ichinojo, M5 Arawashi, and M12 Okinoumi—and their only hope of contending for the yusho [tournament championship] is for Hakuho to lose TWICE and for them to perform perfectly for the rest of the basho. That seems like a tall order for ANY of them. In fact, the only one that I think has any kind of realistic chance is Goeido IF he gets focused again (highly unlikely) and IF he can find a way to beat Hakuho when the fight on senshuraku [the final day] (even MORE unlikely).

I say that Goeido and Hakuho will fiight on Day 15 because as of today yokozuna Kisenosato is kyujo [absent due to injury], so Goeido is now that highest ranking challenger in the competition, which means he will get the honor of fighting against Hakuho in the final match of the final day.

I’m glad that Kisenosato has withdrawn. It’s been clear for days that he’s nursing some kind of injury (I think that it’s a left thigh strain) that makes it impossible for him to do anything but fight defensively. He needs to rest, possibly skipping another whole tournament, until his injuries heal. Otherwise, this first Japanest-born yokozuna since 2004 will find his career may not last two full calendar years. [EDIT: Reports say Kisenosato’s injury is to a ligament in his knee.]

Onosho looked good in his win yesterday. Komusubi is a very difficult rank because their schedules are usually front-loaded, with Week 1 being matches against all of the opponents ranked above them—yokozuna, ozeki, and sekiwake. It’s only in Week 2 that they begin facing lower-ranked rikishi. Onosho got two wins in Week 1 and another yesterday. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the way he fought (aside from being understandably anxious and rushing himself a bit), and if he keeps his spirits high there’s no reason he can’t have a great record in Week 2, saving his kachi-koshi [majority of wins].

Goeido, on the other hand, notched a seventh win yesterday against sekiwake Yoshikaze, but it was more by luck than skill. The whole bout was a mess for BOTH rikishi, and Goeido was a hair’s breadth away from losing when he realized that his opponent was in just as terrible a situation as he was. Indeed, it seemed as though Goeido had conceded the loss (at least in his own mind), which isn’t the kind of thing that a rikishi contending for a yusho should EVER do.

All of the rikishi have six matches remaining in the tournament. How they approach those matches will have a great deal to do with what they get out of them.

Now here’s a look at today’s top matches.

M7 Daishomaru (3–6) vs. M12 Okinoumi (7–2)—Okinoumi is one of the six rikishi tied for second place. He slipped up yesterday, lookingalmost disinterested during his quck loss to M14 Kotoyuki. If he can get the fire back in his belly, there’s no reason he shouldn’t go right back to his winning ways. (3:40)
M6 Chiyoshoma (4–5) vs. M9 Daiesho (4–5)—Two mid-level rikishi, both scrambling to get their kachi-koshi [majority of wins], and both currently sitting at 4–5 records. Getting this fifth win is more of a psychological edge than a real one.  (5:10)
M9 Endo (6–3) vs. M5 Arawashi (7–2)—Arawashi is another second-place rikishi, and today he faces off against fan favorite Endo. Certainly, this is one of the matches that will garner the most hooting and hollering from the crowd, and that often spurs the rikishi on to greater performances. (7:30)
M2 Chiyotairyu (4–5) vs. M3 Hokutofuji (7–2)—These two rikishi are very similar physically, and fight with very stimilar stlyes of sumo. That often makes for interesting, hard-fought matches. (8:00)
M1 Tamawashi (7–2) vs. komusubi Onosho (3–6)—Onosho is trying to turn his fortunes around after a pretty unlucky Week 1, and so far he’s doing a very good job. Today he faces one of the six second-place rikishi in Tamawashi, another pairing that will likely turn into a long-term rivalry over the coming years. (10:05)
Ozeki Goeido (7–2) vs. sekiwake Mitakeumi (5–4)—Goeido is on the verge of slipping into one of his self-imposed doldrums, and Mitakeumi is still suffering from the effects of his badly sprained toe. The question is, which one will rise above his challenges and grab victory today? (5–4)
M4 Ichinojo (7–2) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (9–0)—Hakuho is unbeaten and looking to remain that way. Ichinojo is big and lazy, and likewise looking to remain that way. Okay, that’s harsh even for me. But so far this tournament, Ichinojo’s “winning strategy” has been to “loom & lean” over and on his opponents until they make a mistake trying to get out from under his bulk. I don’t see that strategy working against Hakuho, so unless Ichinojo has some other trick up his sleeve, I don’t even consider the outcome of this match in question. (14:40)

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