2019 Kyushu Basho: Day 1
Greetings, sumo fans! It’s Day 1 of the Kyushu Basho—the final grand tournament of 2019! It’s been an interesting year is sumo and we’re wrapping it up with a tournament that’s STARTING with a lot of dramatic potential already in place!
• To begin with, in the five previous tournaments this year we’ve have five different yusho winners—Tamawashi in January, Hakuho in March, Asanoyama in May, Kakuryu in July, and Mitakeumi in September. If the title is taken by anyone else, this will be the first time since 1991 that there were six different yusho winners in a single year.
• We start the basho with two kyujo [absent due to injury] rikishi. Earlier this week M12 Ichinojo, the monstrous Mongolian, announce his withdrawal due to a hip injury. Being ranked as low as he is, that most likely means he’ll be demoted out of the top division for the first time since 2014. More surprising, though, is the announcement this morning that yokozuna Kakuryu hurt his lower back in warm-ups this morning and has to pull out of the tournament entirely.
• Ozeki Takayasu is kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] this tournament after having sat out the September basho entirely due to lingering effects of an elbow injury he suffered in the July tournament. Word is that his arm is better but he’s not as strong or nimble as he’d like to be. He probably won’t be a contender for the yusho, but he also probably won’t have any trouble getting the 8 wins he needs to retain his rank.
• In September the big Georgian Tochinoshin was make-koshi [majority of losses] for the second tournament in a row and so has been demoted from ozeki to sekiwake. He has a one-time-only chance to regain his rank if he can get double-digit wins here in Kyushu. You may remember that Tochinoshin was in exactly this position in March of this year, when he managed to get a 10–5 record and became an ozeki again. Can he pull this difficult feat off twice in a single calendar year? I know I hope so.
• Sekiwake Mitakeumi won the yusho in September with a 12–3 record. If he can repeat that performance he might just get his long sought after promotion to ozeki. Even if not, as long as he gets double-digit wins he’ll put himself in a good position to make a run at the promotion in 2020.