Since I’ve started the habit of posting on sumo championship days, I figure why not keep the momentum. This Osaka basho was especially significant for a few reaons:
First, it was Kisenato’s first tournament as a newly-minted grand champion Yokozuna. The first Japanese native Yokozuna in 19 years, “Kise” set out to prove to the skeptics that his promotion after his first and only basho victory was merited. His consecutive Emperor’s Cup with an exciting playoff victory coupled with his consistent sumo over the past year makes it hard to dispute his talent. In a nod to the skeptics, however, the way Kise was mowed down by fellow Yokozuna Harumafuji on Day 13 allows for some lingering questions.
Additionally, this tournament represented former Ozeki (and January 2016 winner) Kotoshogiku’s last chance before permanent demotion. The “Giku” needed 10 victories to automatically bounce back up to his Ozeki rank. He fought well but came up short. Athough no announcements have been made yet, I fear this may be the last we see of Kotoshogiku in the dohyo.
Once Ozeki Goeido pulled out in the first few days, only Terunofuji remained at this rank. And boy is “Terror-nofuji’ back! This was the Terunofuji I admired from 2015, before he became dogged by injuries. During this basho, Terunofuji looked stronger than every other rikishi, all three Yokozuna included. He will definitely be one to watch at the Natsu basho in Tokyo in May. I also look forward to seeing more from Mitakeumi, Ikioi, and Ishiura.
Finally, it feels like sumo is transitioning into the end of the era of Yokozuna Hakuho’s dominance. Hakuho pulled out with an injury and an early loss. If a change of reign is approaching, Terunofuji strikes me as the only prospect to take over the mantle, but that’s only if he remains consistently healthy. More likely is we enter an area of relative parity among the grand champions, which will make for more suspenseful sumo.