NAGOYA – Patience. That was the name of the game as yokozuna Hakuho on Sunday became only the third man in history to win his 30th career championship on the final day of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.
Sumo’s premier yokozuna had to stave off his overzealous rival, yokozuna Harumafuji, who was hell bent on forcing a playoff in the finale to the 15-day tournament. But after digging himself out of a hole, Hakuho disposed of his opponent in style to win with a 13-2 record and move within one title of yokozuna great Chiyonofuji and two from the all-time record of 32 held by sumo legend Taiho.
For the first time in a long while, the excitement on the final day of a major tournament was at fever pitch, with four wrestlers still in contention for the coveted Emperor’s Cup when the yobidashi ushered in the first match.
With the 10th full house in attendance at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, Goeido pulled off the biggest upset in a high-octane clash with ozeki Kotoshogiku, all but assuring his rise in rank to ozeki for the September tournament.
The Sakaigawa sekiwake stopped Kotoshogiku dead in his tracks at the tachiai, getting his left hand on the mawashi before using his right hand to tug his opponent off balance by the head and shoving him off the raised ring.
At that point, Goeido, with blood trickling in an arc on his right shoulder from Kotoshogiku’s bloodied nose and a fresh scab on his left forehead from a match on the 12th day with Harumafuji, was still in the running with Kotoshogiku at 12-3.
Both Goeido and Kotoshogiku, who escaped demotion with eight straight wins from opening day, were trying to become the first Japanese-born wrestler to win a championship since Tochiazuma did so at the 2006 New Year Basho.
But after Kakuryu manhandled ozeki Kisenosato (9-6) in a lopsided affair in the day’s penultimate bout to finish his second tournament at the top rank at 11-4, Hakuho once again proved his dominance.
Harumafuji (10-5) made one false start and was again early standing on the second attempt. But he got a turbo jump at the tachiai and propped up his opponent’s arms awkwardly before Hakuho could get his left on the front of the mawashi and twist his rival down with a perfectly timed overarm pull-down throw.
Instead of rushing to shove Kakuryu out while at a disadvantage, Hakuho patiently waited to maneuver inside for his favored migi-yotsu (right-handed) belt grip to drive his rival out. The plan paid off in spades in his triumph on Sunday.
“Getting my 29th and 30th win on the last day — wow this has been really tough,” said Hakuho after waving to each corner of the sold-out crowd.
“There were times along the way when my mind and body were out of balance, but I just remained calm and believed in myself till the end.
“I was a little nervous but this is not my first time experiencing this, and I think my experience spoke for me today,” added Hakuho, who won the second straight title to reach the 30th milestone in 49 tournaments since taking the title at the 2006 Summer Basho —the fastest pace ever.
Takayasu was the first to drop from the running when he fell to a fourth defeat in a weak display against Takekaze (9-6), who improved to 6-1 in career bouts against his opponent.
Endo got his “kachi-koshi” winning record, despite being throttled at the tachiai by Bulgarian Aoiyama (6-9), dodging to his right when the bigger man came lunging forward as the komusubi went sprawling over the ridge.
No. 6 maegashira Myogiryu (11-4), a former sekiwake, gave Osunaarashi a sumo clinic when he beat his man at the tachiai to stave off a “kachiage” forearm and went on the charge to barrel the Egyptian-born wrestler over the straw to an eighth defeat.
Osunaarashi, who beat both Harumafuji and Kakuryu earlier in the meet, was a candidate for a promotion to the sanyaku ranks and his first Outstanding Performance Prize before falling to a majority of defeats.
Goeido awaits promotion
Nagoya — Sekiwake Goeido has all but gained promotion to the ozeki rank after getting his 12th win in a victory over ozeki Kotoshogiku on Sunday.
The JSA directors board, which offers opinions on ozeki promotions, will hold a meeting to finalize the decision this week, Kitanoumi said.
JSA’s referee board, which is in charge of determining who is recommended for promotions, had indicated the same day it would make a request to Kitanoumi that the 28-year-old Goeido get the green light for sumo’s second-highest rank with his 12th victory.
“I spoke with everyone (in the board),” referee board director Isegahama said before Goeido’s bout. “He has some room to get stronger, and a promotion seems appropriate.”
Goeido has the dubious distinction of holding the sekiwake rank the longest (14 consecutive tournaments) since the Showa period from 1926-1989.
What’s more, he has not gotten double-digit wins in consecutive basho while at sekiwake, and has registered losing records twice during the span. He had just a passing grade with an 8-7 mark at the Summer Basho in May.
Sunday’s victory gave Goeido a total of 32 wins in his three most recent tournaments — just one win away from the 33 wins prescribed as one of the rough guidelines for ozeki promotion.