Although yokozuna Hakuho has pronounced himself fit enough to fight, the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament swings into action on Sunday missing two of its elite wrestlers.
Hakuho is set to compete despite missing March’s tourney — won by fellow Mongolian yokozuna Kakuryu — due to a toe injury, but the yokozuna ranks will be without Kisenosato. The 31-year-old will sit out the tournament due to his inability to rehab properly from an injury he suffered over a year ago.
Kisenosato’s stablemate, ozeki Takayasu, will be absent on the first day but hopes to get into the fray before it ends. Takayasu is coming off back-to-back 12-3 records, but he would forfeit his prestigious ozeki ranking should he compete and fail to get eight wins in two straight grand tournaments. Missing the start of the tournament would make eight wins a more difficult task.
The 15-day competition at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan kicks off with Hakuho, seeking to extend his record championship haul to 41. He will face compatriot and No. 1 maegashira Tamawashi, whom he has beaten in each of their 10 career bouts.
Yokozuna Kakuryu is looking to follow his March championship with a strong effort, having never won 10 bouts in any of the three tournaments following his previous titles. The 32-year-old Mongolian will face the popular Endo on Sunday. Endo, who has beaten the yokozuna twice in eight bouts, is competing as a komusubi for the first time in his career.
Ozeki Goeido will open his campaign against Brazilian Kaisei, who will look to build on his breakthrough March tourney when he won a career-high 12 wins — earning him promotion to the other No. 1 maegashira slot.
Sekiwake Tochinoshin, January’s champion, will need to be ready from the get-go when he squares off against Shohozan. The Georgian enters the bout with an 11-3 career record against his opponent, but has been dealing with a balky right shoulder.
The dynamic No. 2 maegashira gives away 13 cm in height and 28 kg in weight, but the energy Shohozan brings promises an entertaining confrontation between his speed and determination, and the sekiwake’s raw power.