OSAKA – Yokozuna Kisenosato said Monday the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament will leave an everlasting memory, but he remains humble as he realizes his personal growth as a sumo wrestler will stop the moment he allows himself to rest on his laurels.
Speaking at a press conference at his Tagonoura stable a day after defeating ozeki Terunofuji twice to win the Spring title, Kisenosato reminded himself that success is fleeting, and he doesn’t have long to savor the hard-fought victory.
“It’s finally over. The Osaka basho was one that will leave lasting memories,” Kisenosato said of the tournament, which saw four yokozuna compete for the first time in 17 years.
“But this isn’t the end of it. I’ll have to start from step one and climb all the way up the top to the championship again. I’m eager to get stronger,” he said.
On the final day of action at Edion Arena Osaka, the heavily taped Kisenosato, making his debut as the first Japanese-born yokozuna in 19 years, survived his first bout against Terunofuji to even their records at 13-2 and force a championship playoff.
The two wrestlers returned to the ring for a dramatic climax, where the 30-year-old Kisenosato rallied from a disadvantage and swung down the 25-year-old Mongolian, deploying a kotenage right arm-lock throw to earn the come-from-behind victory.
The victory was all the more special as Kisenosato was almost forced to withdraw from the 15-day tournament when he injured his left shoulder in a bout against fellow yokozuna Harumafuji while suffering his first loss on the 13th day.
Kisenosato received treatment in the dressing room before being taken to the hospital by ambulance, but he opted to return to the dohyo — showing the resolve characteristic of a wrestler who has only missed one day of competition in his 15-year career.
His only absence came at the New Year tournament in 2014, when he was forced to pull out with one day remaining due to an injury to his right big toe, snapping his consecutive appearances streak at 953.
Kisenosato knows by experience the challenge of persistence, having never missed a day of school since he started kindergarten until the day he graduated from junior high school. Quitting has never been his style, and he has always regretted the one exception.
This time round, he was keen on living up to his name as an injury-free sumo wrestler, thanks to the late stable master Naruto, the late yokozuna Takanosato, whom he credits for teaching him how to avoid injuries through training.
“I got injured but when I say I’ll do something I mean it, and I just had to squeeze out everything I had. I’m not feeling any pain now so I should be fine,” said Kisenosato, who is scheduled to undergo medical tests.
“I’m mad at myself for looking uncool with my taped-up body. It’s my duty to fight all 15 days in perfect condition. From now on I’ll focus on building an injury-proof body,” he said.
Kisenosato, who couldn’t hold back the tears at the awards ceremony when the Japanese national anthem was played, said he surprised himself when he managed to pull off wins despite not being able to rely on the right side of his body, which is his more dominant side.
“I surpassed myself and felt a much greater power in control in the end. I just didn’t give up,” he said.
“The atmosphere was so special — it was nothing that I’ve experienced in my 15 years of sumo. I’m so glad I fought until the very end,” he said after lifting the Emperor’s Cup for a second straight tournament.
Kisenosato became the first newly promoted yokozuna at sumo’s highest rank to win a championship in 22 years. Only eight wrestlers have ever accomplished the feat, Takanosato being one of them.