Yokozuna Kisenosato did nothing to dispel fears Sunday that his career may be over, as he looked powerless in his opening-day loss at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
Facing komusubi Mitakeumi, who is trying to rebuild some momentum for a push at promotion to ozeki, Kisenosato generated no power from his legs as he tried to force his opponent out after the opening charge.
Mitakeumi bided his time as he retreated back toward the straw and timed his counterattack perfectly. He forced Kisenosato upward and got around his right. The yokozuna feebly attempted to throw his tormentor but was easily pushed back out of the ring.
“I expected him to attack my left, but was able to keep my body moving, and that enabled me to win,” said Mitakeumi, a sekiwake for eight of the last nine tournaments, who was demoted after a 7-8 mark in November.
All three yokozuna were in action on the same day for the first time since Hakuho wrapped up September’s tournament here with a 15-0 record and both Kakuryu and Kisenosato finished 10-5.
Prior to the September tourney, Kisenosato had missed all or part of eight straight tournaments, and in November he became the first yokozuna to lose his first four bouts before he withdrew due to injury.
Kakuryu, fighting for the first time since then, survived a slight misstep on his charge as Tochiozan dodged the yokozuna. But the top-ranked maegashira squandered his momentary advantage by standing and watching as Kakuryu recovered, pivoted and shoved him from the ring.
Hakuho, who missed November’s tourney and is coming back from knee and ankle surgery, looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. He pressured komusubi Myogiryu on the initial charge and slapped him down to defeat.
November champion and new sekiwake Takakeisho started the 15-day tournament with a win over No. 3 maegashira Shodai, beating him for the sixth time in eight career bouts.
The 22-year-old Takakeisho was pushed back at the start but the 27-year-old Shodai had no answer for the sekiwake’s high-voltage counterattack.
“I’m not young,” Shodai said. “I tried to will my body to get going, but I was too slow.”
Fellow sekiwake Tamawashi also opened with a win before the ozeki trio of Takayasu, Tochinoshin and Goeido took to the ring and utterly failed to impress.
Takayasu, the November runner-up, had to deal with a bout of influenza in the approach to the tournament. He got off to a quick start against mountainous Mongolian Ichinojo, but lacked the power to push him over the straw. Ichinojo, a No. 1 maegashira following his demotion from sekiwake, counterattacked and ran the ozeki out of the ring.
Tochinoshin, who has managed just 22 wins over the previous three tournaments, opened well, but the one-time powerhouse let himself get pushed around the ring and out by No. 2 Hokutofuji.
Goeido quickly surrendered the advantage in his bout. No. 2 Nishikigi secured an underarm hold with his left hand and let the ozeki expend his energy trying to break free before forcing him out.
“I’m happy about this. I want to do my best, and try to earn promotion to the sanyaku ranks,” Nishikigi said, referring to three ranks below yokozuna.
Yago, promoted to the makuuchi division after a 10-5 juryo record in November, got his top-flight career off to a winning start with a solid force-out of former juryo rival Meisei.