Sumo

Tochinoshin reflects on unlikely New Year Basho victory

Kyodo

Newly crowned champion Tochinoshin said Monday he hopes to enjoy the little time he has to reflect and savor the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament victory before he puts it all behind and resumes training next week.

Speaking at the traditional morning-after press conference, the 30-year-old, who became the first wrestler from Georgia to win a title, said he will never forget the winning moment and the thought of having his name engraved on the Emperor’s Cup was surreal.

“I’ve never felt so good after the final day of the tournament,” Tochinoshin said at his Kasugano stable in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward.

“I spoke to my wife on the phone a little bit. She was crying so hard she could hardly talk and that made me happy. I don’t have time to go back home (to Georgia) yet. I’ll have to wait till May or so,” he said.

Tochinoshin, whose real name is Levan Gorgadze, secured victory on Saturday, the penultimate day of the 15-day meet at Ryogoku Kokugikan, when he defeated fellow maegashira Shohozan for his seventh straight win to improve to 13-1.

The following day he beat fan favorite Endo to finish off in convincing fashion, becoming the first rank-and-file wrestler in six years to win a sumo tournament.

With his parents, wife and newborn daughter remaining in Georgia, Tochinoshin kept it strictly business at his home away from home at the Kasugano stable, where he has lived and trained since he was 18.

The No. 3 maegashira, who competes wearing the same mawashi belt his stablemaster Kasugano wore when he was an active wrestler, said the recent victory gave him a long-awaited opportunity to repay his coach for his many favors over the years.

When Tochinoshin returned to the stable after he received the trophy at the awards ceremony on Sunday, he was greeted by Kasugano and the two embraced each other in tears.

“A few years ago he told me he wanted a hug if I ever win the championship. I’m so happy that I was able to win wearing his belt,” he said.

Tochinoshin dropped to the lower-tier makushita after injuring his right knee during the Nagoya meet in 2013 and missed the next three tournaments. After his comeback, he reached the third-highest rank of sekiwake for one tournament in 2016.

His surprise rise to championship after six tournaments as maegashira gave a much-needed boost to the reputation of the Kusugano stable, whose stablemaster has been in a spate of scandals involving violence against his wrestlers.

Tochinoshin, who hopes to win promotion to sekiwake at the March 11-25 meet in Osaka, is the first Kasugano stable wrestler in 46 years to win a title.

“I’ll keep on working hard so that I can win the next basho as well. I’m confident,” he said.