The big question heading into the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament is not if grand champion Asashoryu will win yet another title, but whether the Mongolian grappler will be handed a single loss during the 15-day meet.
Asashoryu captured his 11th Emperor’s Cup at the Spring tourney in March with a 14-1 record. The yokozuna went a perfect 15-0 in the New Year meet in January and will be gunning for his eighth title in the last nine tournaments when the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament begins on Sunday at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.
Asashoryu’s only loss this year came at the hands of ozeki Tochiazuma on the 13th day of the Spring meet.
The 24-year-old wrestler is so dominant that some sumo officials worry that his success may be a threat to the sport’s popularity.
Sumo hasn’t had a Japanese grand champion since Takanohana retired in 2003, and with Asashoryu showing no sign of letting up, that isn’t likely to change soon.
In the summer meet, Asashoryu will also be looking to tie retired yokozuna Musashimaru of Samoa for the most titles won by a foreign wrestler at 12.
After winning the title in March, Asashoryu said he didn’t have enough practice heading into the Spring meet. His opponents can only hope this time out that he has been too busy making personal appearances leading up to the third event of the year.
Even though Asashoryu is the odds-on favorite, there will be other wrestlers with things to prove.
Ozeki Chiyotaikai is coming off a sub-par 6-9 record last time out and will be hoping to maintain his status at the sport’s second-highest rank with a winning record.
Sekiwake Hakuho, also of Mongolia, got off to a slow start last tournament but finished with a respectable 8-7 record. The 20-year-old wrestler will be aiming to solidify his place as one of sumo’s rising stars with a few more wins this time.
In addition to being the only wrestler to defeat Asashoryu this year, ozeki Tochiazuma posted a respectable 10-5 record in the Spring meet and would like to rekindle speculation for promotion to yokozuna with another strong performance.
Ozeki Kaio, who also finished 10-5 last time out, is in the same boat as Tochiazuma, but is quickly running out of chances to reach sumo’s highest rank.
After a disastrous komusubi debut in which he went 4-11, Bulgarian Kotooshu dropped down to a No. 5 maegashira for the summer tourney and hopes to move back up the ranks.
Russian Roho went 9-6 in the last tourney to win the technique award. He moved up to top maegashira from No. 6 and, along with Hakuho, is one of the sport’s most promising young stars.
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