[sumo] Upcoming Basho Could Be Fascinating - John Gunning

Jeffrey Anderson jpaitv at gmail.com
Thu Jul 16 11:31:47 EDT 2020

Since it's the Japan Times....

Upcoming July Basho could be fascinating, unpredictable affair
Newly promoted ozeki Asanoyama (right) practices at the Takasago stable on
July 9. | JSA / VIA KYODO
BY JOHN GUNNING <https://www.japantimes.co.jp/author/john-gunning/>


   - JUL 16, 2020
   - PRINT
   - SHARE <http://www.addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=300&pubid=jtimes>

One of the more unusual tournaments of recent times gets underway in Tokyo
on Sunday.

Sumo returns to the capital for the first time since January, with the
intervening six months having seen a spectator-less *basho *in Osaka, a
canceled tournament in May and a long period of enforced restriction on
wrestlers' training and movements.

Add to all that the coronavirus related death of 28-year-old veteran
Shobushi, and it’s hard to know just what kind of physical or mental
condition *rikishi *will be in when things kick off at the Kokugikan on
July 19.

In terms of the former, it’s almost certain men like Mitakeumi, Onosho and
Tamawashi, who train in stables that lack wrestlers of a similar standard,
won’t be fully match-fit at the start of the July meet.

*Degeiko *(going to other stables to train with tough opponents) has long
been a major part of pre-tournament preparation in sumo, and when it hasn’t
been possible rikishi have suffered.

Those in stables with numerous *sekitori *(wrestlers in the top two
divisions) undoubtedly will have a sharpness advantage in the early days of
the upcoming tournament.

That’s not something that should persist, however. Most of the top division
is made up of people on the right side of 30, so bouncing back quickly and
working themselves into shape likely won’t be too much of a problem. By the
halfway point, everyone should be up to speed.

Of course, while a tournament can’t be won in the first week, it most
certainly can be lost. Wrestlers who struggle to shut out distractions
could find this tournament particularly tough.

The strangeness of a silent arena in Osaka clearly affected performances in
the early going there, and it’s easy to imagine that a small audience not
allowed to shout or cheer will have a similarly discombobulating effect
this month.

When it comes to the championship race, veterans with previous experience
of long layoffs, and in stables with strong opponents, should have an edge.

The two *yokozuna *obviously spring to mind.

Hakuho of course has history on his side, with the Miyagino stable veteran
winning the tournaments that came either side of the canceled March 2011
meet. While he isn’t the all-conquering force he was a decade ago, sumo’s
greatest wrestler has to be considered the favorite heading into the July

Kakuryu, at the time a *komusubi*, finished runner-up in May 2011. The
Ulaanbaatar native narrowly missed out on a ninth Emperor’s Cup last time
out, losing a title-deciding bout to Hakuho on the final day of the March

Now in the Michinoku stable, Kakuryu has up-and-coming Mongolian stablemate
Kiribayama to train with daily. In an uncut training video released by the
Japan Sumo Association last week, the yokozuna was in dominant form and
could well emerge victorious this time out — even if Hakuho is healthy and
remains in the tournament.

Outside of the two yokozuna, most of the media attention will likely fall
on newly promoted *ozeki *Asanoyama. The Kindai University graduate has
kicked things up several notches over the past year and looks set to
inherit sumo’s throne in the not too distant future

Although he lacks top-level training partners and is the only man in the
yokozuna or ozeki ranks who has never experienced a long layoff, Asanoyama
has shown an ability to keep a cool head when under pressure, and has
continuously improved his sumo since turning professional. The key for the
Takasago stable man this time out is the same one needed to take the final
step on the sumo ladder – namely dominance against lower rankers.

To win a second title and put himself on the path to yokozuna, Asanoyama
has to stop dropping bouts to rikishi like Abi and Yutakayama on a regular
basis. Losses to Hakuho and Kakuryu will happen, but those need to become
title deciding matchups, not fights with nothing at stake for the new ozeki.

While the main focus for the July tournament rightly falls on those at the
top of the ranking, the lower half of the *makuuchi *division this time out
is fascinating. Four former ozeki (Terunofuji, Kotoshogiku, Takayasu and
Tochinoshin) will be battling it out with rapidly rising Sadogatake stable
youngsters Kotonowaka and Kotoshoho. If one of them catches fire we could
see a fourth rank and filer lift the Emperor’s Cup in the space of two
years, after just one in the previous 17.

Terunofuji, back in the top tier after falling all the way down to the
second-lowest division seems like the best dark horse candidate for the
title. The Mongolian veteran won’t fear anyone he could be matched up with
over the first ten days. Having already experienced life as an ozeki, and
with a championship to his name, the pressure won’t be a factor either.

Best regards,
Jeffrey Anderson

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these:
It might have been.
- John Greenleaf Whittier
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://server.webtrek.com/pipermail/sumo/attachments/20200716/15bdbec7/attachment.html>

More information about the Sumo mailing list