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Consistent Kisenosato needs title to secure promotion to yokozuna

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Few involved in the world of sumo, as fans or as part of the inner workings of the sport would or could ever claim that Kisenosato has been anything other than the most consistent ozeki in recent memory.

In 20 of 27 tournaments at rank he has finished with double-digit winning records; a record any other ozeki in the past decade if not longer would give his right arm for.

So why, just over 11 years after he first appeared in the top flight, and four and a half since promotion to the sport’s second rank, has he yet to have his name carved onto a single winner’s plate on the foot of the solid silver Emperor’s Cup trophy awarded to winners on the final day of each basho?

Nine times he has been runner-up, most recently on Sunday following a 13-2 showing over the course of 15 days. Only Hakuho fared better with an unbeaten 15-0 record, on his way to a career 37th top flight victory.

For over three years in terms of consistency Kisenosato has even outshone the yokozuna duo of Harumafuji and Kakuryu; the latter of whom was himself promoted to yokozuna on the back of an out-of-the-blue jun-yusho followed by an Emperor’s Cup win in early 2014.

And in the two years since, Kakuryu has continued to pale in comparison to Kisenosato on the consistency rankings, managing just one further yusho victory as a grand champion with a 12-3 record in autumn of last year — and that was in a basho that Harumafuji did not even enter with Hakuho dropping out after the second day.

Perhaps, if for no other reason then, Kisenosato’s latest jun-yusho could, or should be seen as the start of a yokozuna run if he claims his first yusho in July; a concept raised by a number of fans in the final weekend of action.

Should he finally get his hands on the Emperor’s Cup in the Nagoya Basho in July, at the very least the powers that be in sumo should initiate a discussion on whether Kisenosato has earned promotion to yokozuna in much the same way Kakuryu was promoted.

As an aside to the action on the dohyo, something rather mysterious has been happening at Nishikido Beya — home of the Canadian sandanme division rikishi Homarenishiki.

When it became known that Homarenishiki — real name Brodik Henderson — would not be participating in the May 8-22 tournament, at least one person in Canada claiming a link to the rikishi went on a public forum to say Henderson had actually returned home and was seemingly done with the sport.

A brief exchange with one of Henderson’s foreign-fan entourage in Tokyo led to this original claim being removed for a few days, before it was replaced later with allegations of bullying the prime reason behind Henderson’s absence.

Five other Nishikido wrestlers were also absent from the tournament, which only added to the intrigue. Punished “in-house” perhaps as a part of upcoming damage limitation?

“(Homarenishiki/Henderson) returned home to Canada last month and is thinking about quitting sumo because he was treated so poorly at Nishikido. Poorly, meaning far worse than the typical bullying of a newcomer. There could be legal action involved” was the claim of said anonymous individual supposedly linked to the wrestler through a family friend and using the online name of Kitakatadoki.

The possibility of legal action surrounding the whole issue has been confirmed on the same forum by John Gunning, a now regular NHK sumo broadcast guest known to be close to Henderson.

The full details surrounding Homarenishiki’s absence, however, are still far from clear with no known official announcements at the time of this writing.

What is known is that the initial online claim that the 21-year-old had returned to Canada has not been refuted by a usually outspoken group of family and foreign fans close to the man himself. The silence in this case is almost deafening.

Of note is the fact that the Hawaiian-born TV personality, and former ozeki Konishiki, as arguably the most famous face seen with Henderson when he first arrived at Nishikido Stable, and when contacted online, claimed no knowledge of him having left the country.

Whatever the circumstances on Henderson’s apparent departure, hopefully there will be no return to the dark days of 2007, when a seemingly rampant bullying culture in some stables led to the death of young rikishi Tokitaizan at the hands of his stablemates, and made all the wrong headlines in media around the world.