Sumo

Veteran Tochiozan clawing back to makuuchi in twilight of long career

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

After finishing five straight tournaments with a losing record, Tochiozan was demoted to the juryo division for the ongoing Fukuoka meet.

The veteran is in a good position for instant repromotion to the top tier after securing a winning record on Day 12, but whether he still possesses the ability and strength to stay there is hard to say.

The 32-year-old was still a teenager the last time he fought in sumo’s second division.

Even if he makes it back to the makuuchi division, Tochiozan’s career increasingly looks like it’s in the home stretch.

Thus far he has won six special prizes and six kinboshi for upsetting a yokozuna, in addition to finishing runner-up once.

Those are hardly insignificant achievements, but it’s a disappointing haul for a career that promised so much, so early.

In particular, Tochiozan’s second-place finish in the 2012 Summer Grand Sumo Tournament surely hurts the most.

Tochiozan lost in a Day 15 playoff for the Summer Basho title to 37-year-old veteran Mongolian Kyokutenho after downing Kisenosato, Kakuryu and Kotooshu over the last few days.

That defeat leaves Tochiozan and Toyonoshima as the only active rikishi to have lost a playoff for the Emperor’s Cup without ever winning a title or making it to ozeki.

Tochiozan’s greatest rival from the time he was a schoolchild has always been current ozeki Goeido.

They started life as professionals together. Although Tochiozan reached makuuchi faster and matched Goeido head to head over the first decade or so of their careers, his rival kicked on further, reaching sumo’s second-highest rank and lifting the Emperor’s Cup with a perfect 15-0 record in 2016.

Tochiozan is the owner of the Kiyomigata elder name share currently on loan to former maegashira Bushuyama.

Once Tochiozan retires he will take up that name and become a sumo coach, most likely at his own Kasugano stable.