FUKUOKA - Less than two months after suddenly moving to his new stable, Takakeisho gave the Chiganoura stable its first grand sumo tournament champion on Sunday.
The 22-year-old had been forced to find a new home after his original stablemaster, controversial former yokozuna Takanohana, abruptly quit the Japan Sumo Association in September.
“I was able to train really well prior to the start of the tournament,” Takakeisho said. “Even though I was in a new stable, I could work hard and that produced results.”
Quick as a cat despite his 170-kilogram frame, Takakeisho seemed completely unbothered by any distractions surrounding a potential championship until he flubbed a chance to clinch the title in a shock loss on Saturday.
On that day against his only rival for the title, ozeki Takayasu, Takakeisho’s poise failed him. After a dominant start to their bout, he overreached, lost his balance and crashed to the sandy surface, leaving the two sharing the lead with one day to go.
“Many times that night (after the loss) my weak side seemed poised to come out,” he said. “It’s a good thing I didn’t give in to that.”
His championship was the ninth by a komusubi and the first since Kaio won the Summer Grand Tournament in May 2000, although Takakeisho’s victory occurred with none of the three current yokozuna in action. Kisenosato was there at the start in Fukuoka but withdrew hurt after four straight losses, the first of which came against Takakeisho.
After Takakeisho wrapped up the championship following an unexpected loss by Takayasu, he paid thanks to his father, who was in attendance at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.
“From the time I was a little boy, all my meals and everything came from my father,” the wrestler said. “It’s nice to be able to repay a little of that. I want to say, ‘Thank you.’ ”
He also said he wanted to thank his former stablemaster Takanohana.
“I want to tell him that this championship was due to him,” Takakeisho said.