FUKUOKA - Goeido, who has been mostly mediocre during his time at the second-highest rank of ozeki, will have the unlikely chance of reaching the exalted rank of yokozuna at the Nov. 13-27 Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.
Two years on from appearing as ozeki for the first time at the 2014 Autumn tourney, Goeido exceeded all expectations this September by winning all 15 bouts for his first career championship in Tokyo.
The turnaround also came as a “kadoban ozeki” — when a second straight tourney with seven or fewer wins would have seen him dropped from the rank.
“Not just anybody can have this experience (of being in with a chance of promotion),” Goeido told a press conference. “I think it is something to be happy about.”
Goeido’s stablemaster Sakaigawa said, “This is a precious chance and I hope (he) goes for it.”
The 30-year-old from Osaka, who had an unimpressive 93-86 record at the rank through July with four losing records, could yet become the first Japanese-born wrestler to be elevated to the highest rank since Wakanohana was promoted in 1998 if he can win in Fukuoka or post championship-caliber results.
But it won’t be made any easier by the return of yokozuna Hakuho. The winner of a record 37 championships missed the last tourney due to injuries to his right big toe and ankle, and his left knee. The Mongolian, three shy of winning the 1,000 bout of his career, is ranked the lowest among the current three yokozuna for the first time.
Fellow Mongolian yokozuna Harumafuji, ranked highest, looks to better his 12-3 record in September, while Kakuryu, who hasn’t managed more than 11 wins in any of his five tourneys this year, will be eager to join the title race for his third Emperor’s Cup of his career.
Ozeki Kisenosato, who failed miserably at his shot at yokozuna promotion last time out after two defeats in first three days, will at least have no such pressure to deal with this time. Kotoshogiku, who also disappointed during his promotion bid in March with an 8-7 record, looks to better his 9-6 mark from September.
Question marks remain over Mongolian Terunofuji, however. He twice snatched winning records this year to retain his ozeki status but is once more in jeopardy of demotion after going a dismal 4-11 in September.
Takayasu remains at sekiwake after a promising 10-5 record, while Okinoumi returns to the third-highest rank for the first time since March last year.
Tamawashi returns to komusubi also for the first time in 10 tourneys, while Mitakeumi, 23, is the first Nagano-born wrestler to move up to the fourth-highest echelon since 1932.
Hokutofuji, 24, will enter the elite makuuchi division for the first time after winning 12 in the second-tier juryo in September. Another new entrant, Ishiura, 26, becomes the first wrestler from Tottori Prefecture since former yokozuna Kotozakura entered the division in 1963.
Hidenoumi and Chiyotairyu make their returns to the top flight in Fukuoka after two tourneys down in juryo.