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SUMO: 2017 Kyushu Basho (Day 12)

It’s Day 12 of the Kyushu Basho, and Thanksgiving here in the U.S. One of the things I’m thankful for today is that Hakuho made such a bizarre error yesterday and as a result the yusho [tournament championship] race is back to being at least nominally competitive!

If you haven’t watched yesterday’s final match, you probably want to do so before reading further. Start at 13:25 on yesterday’s video.

Now, the thing you DIDN’T see on that video was how long Hakuho stood arguing with the shimpan [ring judges], and that even after the decision was made and Yoshikaze left the ring, Hakuho continued to stand there for another half-minute or so in protest. Also, because he was protesting, Hakuho never actually bowed to Yoshikaze, which is extremely unsportsmanlike.

All I can say is . . . What the heck was Hakuho thinking?!? He knows damn well that only the gyoji [referee] or a shimpan can call a matta [re-do]. The only excuse I can think of is that Hakuho thought he heard someone call matta, otherwise there’s no reason to stop once the fight begins—you finish the fight and THEN argue for the re-do. As it was, he stood up in a completely vulnerable position and had absolutely NO chance to defend himself (which I suppose is part of his argument, but not a winning part). Slow motion replays showed that it clearly was NOT a matta, Yoshikaze simply employed a slight delay in his tachi-ai [initial charge] in hopes to get a better inside grip. Hakuho, I think, was a victim of his own expertise. He KNEW that Yoshikaze was faster than that and presumed the reason the tachi-ai was slow was that Hakuho himself had jumped the gun. But it’s clear on the video that they were in sync and it was a clean tachi-ai.

I guess you still CAN fool Hakuho some of the time!

[UPDATE: This morning, Hakuho and his oyakata [stable master] were called in before the Judging Department and reprimanded. Afterward, Hakuho talked to the press saying, “I did what I did because I don’t think the fans want to see that kind of sumo. I just wanted the shimpan [ring judges] to view the replay.” He later added that after seeing the replay himself he realized, “it was my mistake, so my behavior really is inexcusable.”]

Anyway, there’s no going back in sumo once a decision has been made. Hakuho has his first loss of the tournament, and now M3 Hokutofuji and M12 Okinoumi are only one win behind him in the yusho race! 

In other matches, I’m beginning to worry that Goeido might be about to implode the way he did in September . . . only this time he isn’t leading the tournament. In fact, he still hasn’t even gotten his kachi-koshi [majority of win]. He needs to pull himself together and get that eighth win. Luckily, he faces M4 Ichinojo today, and if anyone’s head is further out of the game than the ozeki’s, it’s Ichinojo.

The other ozeki, Takayasu, got his kachi-koshi yesterday by beating the self-same Ichinojo, and doing so quite handily. He’s now erased his kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] status and is secure that he’ll begin 2018 as an ozeki in good standing. His big test now is to try to reach double-digit wins (like an ozeki should). If he does, then all of his Week 1 stumbling will be forgotten and the pundits will again start talking about how he can improve well enough to win a yusho and then make a bid for a yokozuna promotion. 

Today’s Top Thanksgiving Matches include:

M12 Okinoumi (9–2) vs. M13 Aminishiki (7–4)—Okinoumi remains one win behind the leader, while Aminishiki remains one win shy of his kachi-koshi. I think that Aminishiki benefitted in Week 1 from everyone having forgotten how clever he is, and suffered in Week 2 from everyone remembering that he’s 39 years old and can be muscled around. (0:10)
M9 Endo (8–3) vs. M15 Miyogiryu (6–5)—Two popular rikishi who are about the same size, use similar tactics, and both are trying to re-establish their reputations. A high-speed, high-powered match worth waiting for. (2:15)
M2 Chiyotairyu (4–7) vs. komusubi Onosho (4–7)—Two rikishi, both on the verge of make-koshi [majority of losses] makes for a fight tinged with desperation. That one of them is Onosho, who until now has never failed to get not only kachi-koshi but double-digit wins, only adds to the mix. (9:35)
M4 Chiyonokuni (3–8) vs sekiwake Yoshikaze (6–5)—Yoshikaze got a surprise (even to him) win over Hakuho yesterday, but he still needs two more wins to get his kachi-koshi. Chiyonokuni is fighting for pride, and for a chance to beat the guy who just beat Hakuho. (10:05)
Ozeki Goeido (7–4) vs. M4 Ichinojo (7–4)—Two rikishi on the edge of kachi-koshi. Ichinojo is on a three-match losing streak, Goeido is on a two-match losing streak, but one of them will change that today. Really, it should be Goeido all the way. Ichinojo hasn’t done anything but push and lean all tournament. But I’m afraid that Goeido is too deep in his own head and may find a way to lose no matter what. I pick on these two a lot because they both have great potential that they habitually squander. I’d be happier if they both just fought well all the time. (11:40)
M3 Hokutofuji (9–2) vs. ozeki Takayasu (8–3)—This should be one of the best matches of the day—the still new ozeki against the young challenger with his eye on sanyaku. They are another pair whose size and sumo styles sync up surprisingly well.  (13:55)
Sekiwake Mitakeumi (7–4) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (10–1)—So, Hakuho had an uncharacteristic lapse yesterday and blew his chance at a zensho-yusho [perfect record tournament championship]. When he does that, he almost always comes back with redoubled focus the next day, which would be bad for Mitakeumi (who is still harboring a sprained big toe). On the other hand, Mitakeumi is amazing for his ability to learn from losses and apply those lessons to his next matches. And he still needs one more win for his kachi-koshi. Still, my bet is a very quick win for the yokozuna. (14:55)

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