Baruto reveals injury forced tactical switch

Kyodo

Baruto admitted Monday his successful ozeki promotion bid has left him shattered but the Estonian former nightclub bouncer says he was able to take advantage of a thumb injury to score a personal-best 14-1 record at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

“The result is the best and I’m absolutely exhausted,” Baruto told a news conference a day after the 15-day meet wrapped up at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium.

The Baltic behemoth often favors a forklift truck-style “tsuridashi” maneuver to lift up his opponents by their “mawashi” belts and plop them over the straw bales.

However an injury to his left thumb before the tournament meant he had to make adjustments and deploy more slap-and-thrust tactics in Osaka.

“Until now I have always thought I could get by if I was able to get control of the mawashi,” said the 25-year-old Baruto, whose real name is Kaido Hoovelson.

“But I got injured so I thought I would just have to get forward aggressively and try and shake off my opponents.”

Baruto said he would now focus on rehearsing his speech for Wednesday, when a member of the Japan Sumo Association of board of directors will formally visit his Onoe stable to inform him of his promotion.

Ozeki usually make a speech on this occasion promising to do their best to uphold the dignity of the rank.

“I have seen this many times on television. I am looking forward to it and want to rehearse as well as I can,” said Baruto.

Stable-master Onoe said, “The look on his face (in Osaka) was different to before. He looked more like he meant business. Sake tastes sweeter thanks to him.”

Baruto will become only the second European ozeki after Bulgarian grappler Kotooshu.

Hakuho won the spring meet with a perfect 15-0 record and had kind words for Baruto after lifting his 13th Emperor’s Cup.