SUMO: 2019 Haru Basho—Day 10
It’d Day 10 of the Haru Basho and yokozuna Hakuho remains alone atop the leaderboard, but the number of second-place rikishi has dropped to four—yokozuna Kakuryu, ozeki Takayasu, M4 Ichinojo, and M7 Aoiyama.
Hakuho had a relatively easy time with komusubi Mitakeumi, but that’s not really so surprising given that Mitakeumi has been struggling with a leg injury that seems to be getting worse as the basho progresses. He dropped to 3–6 with the loss and seems in real danger of falling out of the sanyaku ranks for the first time since January 2017.
Ichinojo continues to perform the best sumo of his career, yesterday beating ozeki Goeido, who at the time was one of those tied for second place. One of the pair was going to fall off the pace, but it seemed most likely that it would be Ichinojo. But that’s why they have the matches, because the big Mongolian was patient and measured with his sumo, and waited until Goeido got a little antsy, then easily forced him out of the ring. As I’ve said before, if Ichinojo could actually perform like this consistently, he’d be in the hunt for the yusho [tournament championship] every basho.
Also putting in another strong showing yesterday was ozeki Tochinoshin, who had a good tachi-ai [initial charge] for the first time this tournament and beat M3 Shodai with another demonstration of his power-lifting style of sumo. Tochinoshin is now 6–3 and only needs two more wins to eliminate his kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] status.
I haven’t mentioned Takayasu or Kakuryu much lately simply because they’ve been winning quickly and without incident. Neither looks so strong and dominant that it’s been worth mentioning, but then they also haven’t shown any real weakness—they’ve just been performing they way rikishi of their rank are expected to. However, as we move into the middle of Week 2, we’ll start to see matches where the ozeki and yokozuna are fighting each other, and THAT is where this yusho is likely to be decided.
A very popular rikishi, M10 Ikioi, has been struggling mightily this basho. He’s currently 1–8, and has his left leg wrapped up from the knee to the toe, and it clearly is swollen. Word came out today that this is because he currently has a case of cellulitis in that leg, and that he’s been going to the hospital both before and after each match to get the infection drained and to receive I.V. antibiotics. Ikioi is the current iron-man of sumo, never having missed a day of competition in his fourteen year career, but really THIS might be the time for that streak to end. It’s seeming unlikely that he’ll get another win this tournament, and that as a result he’ll be demoted to the very bottom of the Makuuchi Division, or possibly even all the way down to Juryo. So the only thing he’s likely to do by continuing to compete is risk the possibility of even more serious and permanent injury. We love you, Ikioi, but do yourself a favor and go kyujo [absent due to injury] for the rest of Osaka.
Today’s most interesting matches include:
M11 Ryuden (6–3) vs. M15 Kotoeko (6–3)—Being 6–3 on Day 10 puts a rikishi at a key crossroad. If he wins, he’ll be two-thirds of the way through the tournament and on pace to get double-digit wins, a big promotion, and a chance at a special prize. If he loses, his current pace will get him a kachi-koshi and not much more. It’s a purely mental distinction, but one that is important to the rikishi. (2:00)
M7 Aoiyama (8–1) vs. M10 Shohozan (5–4)—Aoiyama has been up near the top of the leaderboard all basho, but because he’s ranked in the middle of the banzuke, his matches have been pretty cut and dry. Today he fights the scrappy “punk” Shohozan. (5:45)
Ozeki Tochinoshin (6–3) vs. ozeki Goeido (7–2)—The first of our ozeki vs. ozeki bouts. Tochinoshin is injured but needs two more wins to retain his rank. Goeido just fell out of second place yesterday, and will be looking to prove himself, but has a history of letting one bad loss shake his confidence the following day. (10:55)
Ozeki Takayasu (8–1) vs. M4 Ichinojo (8–1)—Two second-place rikishi going head-to-head. This is the marquee match of the day. (12:00)
Yokozuna Hakuho (9–0) vs. sekiwake Tamawashi (4–5)—Hakuho has chance to make a statement if he can dominate this bout while the other rikishi are struggling. But the question still remains as to how strong he really is this basho. (13:00)
Sekiwake Takakeisho (7–2) vs. yokozuna Kakuryu (8–1)—Takakeisho needs a couple of wins over top-notch opponents if he wants to secure a promotion to ozeki. Kakuryu needs to show that a yokozuna is someone not to be trifled with. Should be a grudge match. (14:25)