2019 Kyushu Basho: Day 7
We’ve reached Day 7 of the Kyushu Basho and yokozuna Hakuho is alone atop the leaderboard with a 5–1 record. That seems so normal (except that usually Hakuho would still be undefeated at this juncture), but the truth of the matter is that this continues to be a very strange tournament.
• You may recall that yesterday we had an eight-way tie for the lead. Even given that one of those eight was already kyujo [absent due to injury] M16 Wakatakakge, and thus CERTAIN to lose his share of the lead, it’s incredibly weird for nearly ALL the co-leaders to lose on the same day. The only one who won was Hakuho, and that leaves him alone at top.
• Even though things look more normal with yokozuna Hakuho alone in the lead, all you have to do is look at who immediately trails him to see that this is STILL a very weird basho. There are THIRTEEN rikishi with 4–2 records (or in Wakatakakage’s case, 4–1–1). That’s a really high number, but only two of them are sanyaku level and those are both komusubi. Indeed, only three others are in the top five Maegashira ranks, which means of the baker’s dozen in the trailing pack EIGHT of them are ranked M6 or lower.
• Ozeki Takayasu is fighting like he did three years ago. Often saying that indicates that a rikishi is looking fitter and stronger than usual, but in Takayasu’s case it means he’s looking indecisive and clumsy. Three years ago Takayasu was one of those rikishi who had all the tools but never seemed to be able to do much better than manage kachi-koshi for a couple of basho in a row, followed by make-koshi the next to tournaments. He and Tochiozan seemed like a matched pair. But Takayasu pulled it all together and marched up to an ozeki promotion while Tochiozan continued on the same path. Where’s Tochiozan now? He’s down in the Juryo Division at J2 and has only a 3–3 record coming into today. If Takayasu can’t get his focus back, it’s entirely likely that a year from now he might be in the same situation.
• Sekiwake Mitakeumi continues to have troubles related to the head-butt he suffered on Day 3. The gash that left has required him to wear a big bandage over his right eye and seems to be making him understandably hesitant at the tachi-ai [initial charge]. The result of this has been three losses in a row, bringing him to 2–4 at this stage and leaving me to wonder whether he’d be better off just going kyujo and letting the wound heal. If he can’t get a good tachi-ai he’s going to lose most of his matches, and he’s going to be at risk for other more debilitating injuries. I know that sumo’s macho culture demands that he get out on the dohyo and do his best, but no one wants to see him go out there and flounder around.