2019 Kyushu Basho: Day 15—Senshuraku [Final Day]
It’s senshuraku [the final day] of the Kyushu Basho, and with a win over sekiwake Mitakeumi yesterday, yokozuna Hakuho has secured the yusho [tournament championship]—the 43rd in his historic career. It’s been a strange basho overall, but for Hakuho it was pretty much the same as always—just keep winning until there’s no one left to beat.
• By winning a yusho in the new imperial era, Hakuho has scratched yet another goal off his dwindling bucket list. I mean, with all of the all-time records that he’s already set, there just are fewer and fewer mountains left for him to climb. He’s been saying for a while that remaining active and healthy long enough to do his dohyo-iri [ring entering ceremony] at the Tokyo Olympics was a big motivating factor for him, and barring calamitous injury, that now seems all-but-certain. After that? Well, he can add round numbers to his goals for total career yusho. He’s already blown away the previous lifetime record of 32, and owns the records for most zensho yusho [perfect record championships] (15 with the next highest being 8), most career wins (1,132 and counting), most top division wins (1,038 and counting), and most wins in a calendar year (86 out of 90 matches . . . which he’s done TWICE).
• With a 6–8 record going into today Mitakumi’s going to have to start from square one again in his quest to be promoted to sumo’s second-highest rank. He’s a terrific rikishi and should be one of the top contenders for the next few years at least, but if he ever wants to become an ozeki he has to learn to focus for all fifteen days of the tournament. This was exactly the problem that plagued Takayasu for years, until he seemed to find the solution last year. Of course, this year has seen him go back to struggling and with his withdrawal during Week 1 of this basho, he will enter 2020 as a sekiwake again. He should be the cautionary tale that Mitakeumi is aiming to avoid repeating.
• Despite my doubts, M6 Enho beat M14 Terutsuyoshi yesterday and can still get his kachi-koshi if he wins today against M1 Daieisho. This will be the biggest test of his career so far, even though Daieisho has struggled in Week 2. If Enho wins today, we can expect to see him ranked at M3 in January, which means he’ll get the chance to fight some sanyaku opponents—potentially even an ozeki or yokozuna (though he won’t have to face Hakuho since the two fight out of the same stable).
• There are seven bubble rikishi here on senshuraku with one match remaining to decide whether they’ll get a promotion or demotion for the New Year. I wonder how many times the Kyokai [Sumo Association] will pit two 7–7 rikishi against each other on today’s schedule?
• Down in the lower divisions, former-ozeki Terunofuji did it! After having dropped to the middle of sumo’s second-lowest division due to severe knee injuries, he’s fought his way back to near the top of Makushita (Division III) and just finished the Kyushu Basho with a perfect 7–0 record, winning the Makushita yusho and all-but-assuring a promotion back to Juryo Division, where he’ll once again be salaried! It seems entirely likely that we’ll see him back in the top division again before the end of 2020.
Well, folks, that’s it for sumo in 2019. The rikishi will actually take a bit of time off in December. There is no year-end jungyo [exhibition tour], though there are a couple of one-day exhibition tournaments later in the month. It’s been a long, strange year with five different yusho winners, with Hakuho being the one who was able to double-dip (not surprisingly), and two of them being first-time champions—Tamawashi and Asanoyama (who finished tied for runner-up here in Kyushu).
We’re going to start 2020 with more strangeness. For the first time in a long while there will be only two ozeki, and Goeido will be kadoban in January. Takayasu will be trying to get ten or more wins to regain that rank, and Mitakeumi will be re-starting his quest to finally earn that promotion. And given that the Kyokai was fine with four komusubi this basho, it’s entirely unclear how many sekiwake or komusubi we’ll have in Tokyo—I can see a case for there being three sekiwake (Takayasu, Abi, and Asanoyama) and four komusubi (Mitakeumi, Tochinoshin, Daieisho, and Endo). Guess we’ll have to wait until the New Year to find out!