Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho will be the man to beat again when the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament gets underway in Tokyo on Sunday.
Hakuho, who will be gunning for a 36th championship and second in a row after winning with a 14-1 record in Nagoya in July, has practiced at other stables earlier than usual after his Miyagino stable had to move buildings because of earthquake-resistance problems with the current structure.
Hakuho has been unable to use the dohyo at the old building and has been tuning up elsewhere, but he is fighting fit and said there were positives to be taken from the experience.
“It is the first time that this has happened but it has been a good experience. I’ve just got to look at everything as a plus,” Hakuho said as training wrapped up on Thursday, when the new Miyagino dohyo opened.
“(The new dohyo) has just been made and it is soft (but I will get used to it) from now,” added the yokozuna.
Hakuho will be appearing in his 49th meet as yokozuna to tie Takanohana for fourth on the all-time list.
He kicks off his campaign on Sunday against komusubi Okinoumi.
Kakuryu, who scored 12 wins in Nagoya after missing the previous two tournaments owing to injury, is the only other yokozuna competing in the Autumn Basho.
The pain is gradually subsiding in his left shoulder and he could give Hakuho a run for his money if he reproduces the same kind of form he showed in Nagoya.
Harumafuji will not be competing at the 15-day meet at Ryogoku Kokugikan due to a troubled right elbow that he will need treatment on until mid-October.
Harumafuji escaped with a win over Myogiryu on the first day of the Nagoya meet but hurt the elbow and pulled out the next day. He had surgery on the same elbow following the summer meet in May.
Hakuho’s biggest threat, though, could come from ozeki Terunofuji, who won the summer tournament in May for his first title, thanks in part to a late meltdown from Hakuho.
Terunofuji went 11-4 in his ozeki debut in Nagoya and has had plenty of training under his belt since the summer regional tour in August.
Of the other ozeki, Kisenosato looks the best bet of becoming the first Japanese-born wrestler to win a title since Tochiazuma at the New Year Basho in 2006, with Kotoshogiku and Goeido nursing groin and shoulder problems, respectively.
The Nagoya meet will be a crucial tourney for Tochiozan. The sekiwake has his eye on promotion to ozeki after beating two yokozuna in Nagoya and posting 10 wins.
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