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SUMO: 2018 Kyushu Basho Senshuraku [Final Day] (Day 15)

It’s senshuraku [the final day] of the Kyushu Basho, and we have a tie atop the leaderboard. Both ozeki Takayasu and komusubi Takakeisho are 12–2 and the winner of the yusho [tournament championship] will be decided today.

The two leaders fought head-to-head yesterday, with Takayasu narrowly eking out a win. The ozeki made what could have been a fatal error by overreaching with his left arm, throwing himself off balance. But luck was on his side because as Takakeisho moved in for the kill, he threw himself similarly off balance with a poorly aimed strike. For a second, both men teetered against each other, then Takayasu did a nifty little spin move that stabilized himself and tossed Takakeisho to the dirt. Not the best sumo either one has shown during the tournament, but a very exciting bout.

Today Takayasu faces sekiwake Mitakeumi, and Takakeisho fights M3 Nishikigi. If one wins and the other loses, the yusho winner will walk away with the yusho. But if both rikishi have the same result, win or lose, they will square off again in a playoff bout that takes place immediately after the end of the regularly scheduled matches. No other rikishi are within one loss of the pair, so there is no hope for a multi-bout playoff this time around. 

Mitakeumi lost his match yesterday to ozeki Tochinoshin, giving the sekiwake only his second make-koshi [majority of losses] in the past two years. Something has been off for him all tournament, but it’s unclear whether it’s a physical problem or a mental one. But he was the only other rikishi to beat Takakeisho this tournament, so it would be a salve to his pride if he could also notch a win against Takayasu.

Whoever gets to hoist the Emperor’s Cup at the end of the day, this has been a strange and unpredictable basho. Neither one of our leaders has ever won a yusho before, so it will also be the end of a very strange year in sumo. For the past decade the tournament championships have mostly been won by yokozuna Hakuho (he’s got 41 in his illustrious career), with the one or two per year that he let slip mostly going to other yokozuna. This year Hakuho won only a single tournament, and yokozuna Kakuryu just two. Once the Kyushu Basho is completed, the other three will have gone to first time yusho winners, and it’s been eighteen years since there were that many debut champions. 

Last basho there were an unusually high number of special prizes awarded, due to how good the sumo was. This time the sumo hasn’t been as spectacular and as a result there are only a couple of rikishi up for special prizes. M13 Onosho has been told that if he wins his match today against M10 Yutakayama, he’ll get a kanto-sho [fighting spirit prize], which would be the third in his brief career. Other than that, the only rikishi getting any attention is Takakeisho, who is being awarded both a kanto-sho and a shukun-sho [outstanding performance].

Finally, as usual there are a bunch of rikishi entering today’s action “on the bubble” with 7–7 records. Those who win will receive promotions to start the new year, those who lose will slip a bit down the banzuke for January’s tournament. In any case they will be matches filled with drama and tension.

M13 Onosho (10–4) vs. M10 Yutakayama (5–9)—If Onosho wins, he’ll get a kanto-sho special prize. (1:25)
M15 Daiamami (7–7) vs. M5 Asanoyama (5–9)
—The first of our bubble matches. Daiamami is fighting way up the banzuke, but Asanoyama has had a terrible tournament, so it’s kind of a wash. (5:15)
M12 Aoiyama (10–4) vs. M4 Yoshikaze (7–7)—Yoshikaze is the next bubble rikishi. He’s up against Aoiyama who was in the heat of the yusho race until just a couple of days ago. (5:40)
M2 Tochiozan (8–6) vs. M4 Shodai (7–7)—Shodai is the next bubble rikishi on the schedule. (7:50)
M1 Myogiryu (7–7) vs. M5 Chiyotairyu (7–7)—Two bubble rikishi going head-to-head. Cruel scheduling, but it makes for an intense match! (8:50)
Komusubi Takakeisho (12–2) vs. M3 Nishikigi (8–6)—If Takakeisho wins, the worst he can do is end up in the playoff for the yusho. (If he loses, he can still get that if Takayasu loses, too.) An interesting fact I only just found out today—Takakeisho is the youngest rikishi in the whole upper division! (9:40).
M7 Shohozan (9–5) vs. ozeki Tochnoshin (8–6)—A crazy match that starts with an unseen matta [false start] and ends with blood. (11:20)
Sekiwake Mitakeumi (6–8) vs. ozeki Takayasu (12–2)—If Takayasu wins, the worst he can do is end up in the playoff for the yusho. (If he loses, he can still get that if Takakeisho lost, too.) (13:50)

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