A day after coming up short at the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament, Georgian wrestler Tochinoshin said Monday that he is bracing for an even tougher road ahead after he is promoted to ozeki, sumo’s second-highest rank.
“I think it’s going to be really tough. I want to devote myself to training and fight as a powerful sumo wrestler,” Tochinoshin told a news conference at his Kasugano stable in Tokyo.
Tochinoshin is virtually guaranteed an ozeki promotion after going 13-2 at the Summer tournament at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan, where he also beat record-title holder Hakuho for the first time in 26 career matchups.
His 37 wins in the previous three tournaments, including a 10-5 performance on his sekiwake debut in March, more than exceed the 33-win criterion for promotion.
“I expected to be ozeki earlier. But when I won 10 straight bouts, I thought I could get promoted if I tried a bit harder,” said Tochinoshin, who will be the fourth-oldest wrestler to be promoted to ozeki since the six-event annual system was established in 1958.
The 30-year-old, who won his maiden makuuchi division championship in January, was on track to win a second title until two straight losses ended his 12-match undefeated run at the summer tourney, including a defeat to yokozuna Kakuryu, the eventual winner.
“I thought I could win. It’s disappointing, but I was able to finish with a win, and I’m glad that I won two of the three special prizes,” said Tochinoshin, who earned his third career Technique Prize and his sixth Fighting Spirit Prize for his efforts.
The Japan Sumo Association will convene a board of directors meeting Wednesday to discuss Tochinoshin’s promotion. To date, no promotion recommendation has been rejected by the board.
A former judoka, Tochinoshin made his professional sumo debut in 2006 at the age of 18 and won the juryo division in his debut in sumo’s second tier at the age of 20.
The 30-year-old, whose real name is Levan Gorgadze and who will become the third European to reach sumo’s second-highest rank, got a huge wakeup call five years ago when he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Meanwhile Kakuryu, who earned his fifth makuuchi title after beating rival yokozuna Hakuho on Sunday and posting a 14-1 result, revealed that he had developed a cold at the beginning of the tournament and was even put on an intravenous drip.
The 32-year-old Mongolian said he was exhausted throughout the 15-day event, but was happy to finally bask in the glory of achieving his much-coveted target of winning back-to-back championships.
“I was tired. But I think I did well in keeping my concentration,” Kakuryu said. “It was a huge goal, and I’m glad to achieve it.”
When asked about Tochinoshin’s promotion, Kakuryu said the wrestler is improving and a force to be reckoned with.
“Compared to before, he is clearly growing. I’ll have to work even harder,” Kakuryu said.