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Hakuho and Goeido fight for sumo fans’ attention

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While most sumo fans will be looking at the Sept. 14-28 Aki Basho to see whether or not yokozuna Hakuho will add to his tally of 30 yusho to date, surprisingly there is more to the tournament than this. Yes, another yusho for Hakuho could bring him level with the legendary Chiyonofuji, and yes that would leave him just one shy of Taiho’s all-time record of 32 yusho.

But regardless of whether or not Hakuko once more steps up to receive the Emperor’s Cup from the Sumo Association chairman come Day 15 sumo has a new ozeki to laud. And laud they will, given that he is home-bred, still with the gas in the tank to roar to the top should the stars align.

Promoted after over two years as a sekiwake, Kansai native Goeido is almost as popular in the capital as he is in his hometown of Osaka. News of his promotion, on the back of a 12-3 jun-yusho performance in Nagoya, was greeted by a number of celebrations both in Osaka and also in Toneri, a working-class neighbourhood of northeast Tokyo’s Adachi-ku, home of the stable and last Japanese man to win a yusho back in 2006 — Tochiazuma (now Tamanoi Oyakata).

Local shopping streets and sumo clubs, as well as the average sumo fans, will all be rooting for a quick push for the tsuna white belts worn only by yokozuna. Whether or not Goeido delivers is up to him.

For reasons much debated, the sport is on an upswing as far as ticket sales go. Goeido’s promotion and addition to the ozeki ranks manned by Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku, both also Japanese, will only add to this.

Another fan favorite from the Sakaigawa stable in the past year or so is Myogiryu. Missing the first day, and more than likely the whole basho, due to the all-too-common detached retina injury seen in sumotori, the man from Hyogo Prefecture will be bitterly disappointed, having just returned to the sekiwake rank after a tough year bouncing up and down the rankings.

Homasho, too, another favorite with fans both domestic and international will also be sitting out the first day of action for reasons unconfirmed at time of writing. A 15-day no-show would more than likely result in a drop back down to sumo’s second division from whence he most recently came in spring: not a position a man approaching his mid-thirties would relish finding himself in at the November tournament down in Fukuoka.