FUKUOKA – Yokozuna Musashimaru might fare better with a good two-by-four than with his hefty but disabled meat cleaver when he makes his comeback at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.
After missing all or most of the last six tournaments due to a chronic wrist injury, Musashimaru could need a miracle to regain the power he once wielded over his opponents when the 15-day meet gets under way at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.
The 32-year-old Samoan-born grand champion kicks off his campaign with a close encounter of the bizarre kind against the chest-pounding, Cheshire-catlike Takamisakari in the tourney which wraps up a year dominated by fellow-yokozuna Asashoryu.
If the komusubi is at all his excitable self, though nursing a right-shoulder injury, it could spell trouble and sudden defeat for the big Hawaiian yokozuna.
Winning immediately out of the blocks, on the other hand, would be a huge confidence boost to get Musashimaru back on track to returning to his dominant thrusting brand of sumo. The key will be whether he can contain his opponents’ charges with his still-ailing left wrist.
For sekiwake Wakanosato, who went 11-4 at the autumn meet in September, the task at hand will seem far simpler — winning at least 12 bouts to be considered for ozeki promotion.
Wakanosato has proven time and again that he can stand up to the major players, including the ozeki, and as long as he does not fumble on the first few days, he could be in the running to claim his first Emperor’s Cup.
Asashoryu, of course, is the all-out favorite to win his second straight title and fifth overall championship, barring some freak misalignment of the stars.
“The Kyushu basho has been a real lucky one for me, so I’m going to do my best to win the championship again,” said the 23-year-old native of Ulan Bator.
It is doubtful the Mongolian hothead will need any luck, however, to secure his fourth title this year for the most among all makuuchi wrestlers, despite the fact he is recovering from an injury to his left side.
In a pre-tournament warm-up, Asashoryu, who had not wrestled since hurting his side in mid-October, lost twice to Takamisakari only to vent his anger with an earth-shattering throw in the next bout that left Takamisakari with a hobbled shoulder.
Ozeki Tochiazuma, meanwhile, has regained maneuverability in his upper body and after a 10-5 showing in September could present a challenge to Asashoryu as the title race heats up in Fukuoka.
For Kaio and Musoyama, both of whom are still injured and must record eight or more wins to keep their ozeki ranks, it may be enough just trying to scratch out the bare minimum.
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