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SUMO: 2019 Hatsu Basho—Day 14

It’s Day 14 of the Hatsu Basho. We’re in the final weekend and there is just one man atop the leaderboard with an 11–2 record—sekiwake Tamawashi.

WHAT?!?

That’s right, yokozuna Hakuho lost for the third day in a row on Friday, leaving him tied with sekiwake Takakeisho (who is the rikishi who beat him) for second place at 10–3.

What crazy alternate world have we entered? Is it possible that this will be the fifth basho in a row without a repeat yusho [tournament championship] winner? Last April it was Kakuryu, July was Mitakeumi, September was Hakuho, and November was Takakeisho. If Tamawashi wins his next two matches, the title is his and we’ll have five different winners in five consecutive basho, something that doesn’t happen very often in modern sumo.

Again, Hakuho didn’t look injured yesterday, he just wasn’t at the top of his game, and he fell prey to the same lefthand roundhouse slapdown that Takakeisho used to devastating effect in November. That having been said, he clearly isn’t the same Hakuho who won a zensho-yusho [perfect record championship] in September and still has some recovery to do.

I can’t remember the last time we came into the final weekend of a tournament where I felt so completely uncertain of the likely outcomes. Tamawashi fights M5 Aoiyama today and M9 Endo tomorrow—two mid-ranked rikishi who have performed very well this basho. Meanwhile, Takakeisho will face M4 Okinoumi and ozeki Goeido—higher-ranked opponents, both of whom have struggled a bit over the past two weeks. And Hakuho will have the toughest road of all as he must face the two ozeki, Goeido and Takayasu (both of whom still need one more victory to get their kachi-koshi [majority of wins].

Could we be headed for a playoff? A three-way playoff? I really don’t know, and that’s very exciting!

<<UPDATE: Apparently, Hakuho HAS been fighting injured this whole time. He has withdrawn from the tournament citing a knee injury suffered on Day 4 against Hokutofuji, and a left ankle injury suffered on Day 5 against Nishikigi. Though he still was still in the mix for the yusho, he must believe that his injuries would not stand up against ozeki competitors. That means that both Goeido and Takayasu will get fusen [default wins], assuring them both of being kachi-koshi. I find this unsatisfying in several different ways, but sometimes that’s how sumo goes.>>

Today’s most interesting matches include:

Sekiwake Takakeisho (10–3) vs. M4 Okinoumi (6–7)—Takakeisho must win to stay in the yusho hunt. Okinoumi must win to avoid make-koshi [majority of losses]. This is only the fourth time they’ve ever faced each other. (10:10)
M5 Aoiyama (7–6) vs. sekiwake Tamawashi (11–2)—Tamawashi is fighting to keep sole possession of the lead in the yusho race. Aoiyama is fighting to get his kachi-koshi. (11:10)
Ozeki Takayasu (7–6) vs. komusubi Mitakeumi (8–2–3)—Takayasu needs one more win to get his kachi-koshi. While Hakuho’s withdrawal will get him that automatically, it would look much better for him if he EARNED it. Meanwhile, although Mitakeumi is fighting on an obvious injured left leg, he HAS already earned his kachi-koshi and is fighting for pride and to position himself for a possible ozeki promotion later in the year. (12:15)

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