It’s Day 6 of the Hatsu Basho and only five rikishi remain undefeated—yokozuna Hakuho, ozeki Kisenosato, M10 Sokokurai, M10 Takanoiwa, and M15 Sadanoumi. In fact, the big story of the basho so far has been how shaky the yokozuna and ozeki have looked.
The winners of the previous three hon basho—yokozuna Harumafuji (July), ozeki Goeido (September), and yokozuna Kakuryu (November)—all have 3–2 records, leaving them two wins off the pace. What’s more, ozeki Kotoshogiku is both kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] AND struggling , with a pretty terrible 2–3 record. But worst of all is ozeki Terunofuji, who is still obviously dealing with chronic knee problems and only has a 1–4 record to show for his effort.
On the other hand, a few of the young up-and-coming rikishi are putting in a solid performance so far. Shin-sekiwake [first time ranked at sekiwake] Shodai is 3–2 with a win over ozeki Kotoshogiku. It’s been awhile since there was someone who looked comfortable at sumo’s third highest rank. Takayasu was strong for a few tournaments last year but bottomed out in November. A lot of sumo pundits think that Shodai will be the next rikishi to earn an ozeki promotion . . . and in order to do that, he must perform well as a sekiwake.
Even more impressive has been M1 Mitakeumi, who is also 3–2, but who has notched wins over two yokozuna—Harumafuji and Kakuryu— plus one ozeki—Goeido. Personally, I think that Mitakeumi is likely to be our next ozeki candidate . . . and that if he and Shodai can avoid injuries (like the one that Terunofuji suffered just as he was starting his push to the top of the banzuke [ranking sheet]) they’re going to be leading the next generation of champions.
Anyway, enough of my rambling. Here are today’s matches.