One more chance for Hakuho

Having been given a second chance, Mongolian ozeki Hakuho has a nervous 15 days ahead of him with promotion to sumo’s highest rank well within his grasp.

Hakuho will launch a fresh bid to convince sumo elders when the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament gets under way Sunday at Ryogoku Kokugikan after being overlooked despite his strong 13-2 performance last time out.

Japan Sumo Association Chairman Kitanoumi has suggested that another 13-win showing or better would enable the 21-year-old to join fellow Ulan Bator native Asashoryu as a grand champion regardless of whether he lifts the Emperor’s Cup.

Hakuho is already feeling the pressure, uncharacteristically showing some clumsiness in his moves in pre-tournament training sessions.

“In recent sessions, Hakuho didn’t show what most other promotion candidates have done before,” ozeki Tochiazuma said after having practice bouts with him on Wednesday. “He needs to show the strength, that is, he has to push forward more often like the yokozuna (Asashoryu) does without being passive.”

Some sumo elders echo Tochiazuma in pointing out that Hakuho is relying more than usual on his techniques than on power.

Hakuho shrugged off such concerns, saying his preparations for the Sept. 10-24 event have gone smoothly.

In fact, Hakuho has already notched the number of wins the JSA normally requires wrestlers to have to be considered for yokozuna promotion under its loosely set standards. He has had at least 13 wins in all of the four tournaments held this year, including a 14 to win the Emperor’s Cup in May.