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SUMO: 2018 Aki Basho (Day 5)

Day 5 of the Aki Basho dawns to a sight that the sumo world hasn’t seen for twenty-nine years! Back in March 1989, in Osaka at the Haru Basho, was the last time that three yokozuna reached Day 5 of a tournament and ALL still had unbeaten records. That’s 12–0 between them. In that tournament, the three yokozuna in question (Chiyonofuji, Kitanoumi, and Onokuni) all kept their perfect records through Day 11, an incredible 33–0 for the grand champions. Eventually, the great Chiyonofuji went on to take that yusho [tournament championship] (his 27th) with a 14–1 record.

Of course, here in the present Aki Basho, we ALSO have ozeki Takayasu and sekiwake Mitakeumi still with unblemished records. And between them, yokozuna and ozeki currently have a 22–2 win/loss advantage. And not all of those wins have been what you’d call “dominant.” Yesterday, yokozuna Kisenosato got pushed to the very edge by M1 Kaisei, and ozeki Tochinoshin needed a two attempts to bring down komusubi Tamawashi. But all of that is part and parcel of what’s making this the most exciting basho in a very long time. 

Another slice of history that’s taking place in this tournament is the return to the Makuuchi Division of M13 Takanoiwa. He has never been a particularly dominant rikishi (his highest rank was M2 in March 2017), so you’re to be forgiven if you don’t remember that name, but over the last year he’s been key in developments at the top of the sumo world.

Takanoiwa was the rikishi who was attacked by then-yokozuna Harumafuji last October—an incident that ended up with Harumafuji’s forced retirement and expulsion from sumo. It’s still not completely clear what happened, whether Takanoiwa was hit with a glass ashtray or a TV remote control, but whatever the details, he was kyujo [absent due to injury] for the next two tournaments and dropped all the way down the banzuke [ranking sheet] to J12 in the Juryo Division. But Takanoiwa perservered, winning the Juryo yusho in July, and is now back in the top division and is 2–2 so far this basho.

We have a second kyujo [absence due to injury]. M2 Yutakayama is out with an elbow strain that he apparently suffered in his Day 3 fight against Kisenosato. On a side note, after his hard tumble off the dohyo yesterday, I was expecting to see M10 Aoiyama take at least a day off, but so far he’s planning to fight through the pain.

Today’s top matches include:

M9 Hokutofuji (4–0) vs. M8 Kotoshogiku (3–1)—Two rikishi who are ranked a little bit lower than their skill level and who both are giving strong performances so far this basho. They both want to get back toward the top of the banzuke [ranking sheet], but only one can take a step in that direction today. (4:50)
Sekiwake Mitakeumi (4–0) vs. ozeki Tochinoshin (3–1)—Here’s another marquee match early in the tournament. Mitakeumi won the previous yusho [tournament championship] is undefeated so far in this basho, and has the possibility of a promotion to ozeki if he can get 10 or 11 wins overall. Tochinoshin is in his second basho ranked as an ozeki, he lost his match yesterday, and he is kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] so he must get kachi-koshi, which requires a strong Week 1. On paper, this should be the best match of the day.  (10:15)
Yokozuna Kisenosato (4–0) vs. M3 Shodai (2–2)—Kisenosato is unbeaten, but he’s had to work very hard to get his last two wins. He’s definitely showing a yokozuna’s determination, but the only question is for how many days he can keep this up. (12:50)
Komusubi Takakeisho (1–3) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (4–0)—All I’m going to say is that this was definitely the weirdest match of the day. (14:05)

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