There are eight active wrestlers who have spent time at sumo’s second-highest rank.
Two of them, Hakuho and Kakuryu, went on to greater things, getting promoted to yokozuna in 2007 and 2014 respectively.
Another pair, Takakeisho and Goeido, are still ensconced in the ozeki ranks, while the remaining four — Takayasu, Tochinoshin, Terunofuji and Kotoshogiku — continue to fight further down the rankings.
None of the six who peaked at ozeki can be said to have had a great career, but injuries take most of the blame for that.
Five have lifted the Emperor’s Cup, with Kotoshogiku’s title four years ago being the most significant.
Prior to that January 2016 championship, no native-born wrestler had lifted the silverware in a decade. So dominant and numerous were the Mongolians that it seemed as if it would be several more years before a Japanese rikishi challenged them.
Kotoshogiku, up to that point, had been a solid if unspectacular rikishi. As an ozeki he was mostly a disappointment, rarely offering any kind of challenge to the yokozuna.
In January 2016, though, he caught fire. With a wedding scheduled for just after the tournament, a highly motivated Kotoshogiku tore through the top division, downing three yokozuna in a row starting on the 10th day and finishing with a career best 14-1 record.
The win made headlines around the globe, and his exaggerated pre-bout stretch (called a Koto-Bauer after the figure skating move) became almost an obsession for domestic media.
Kotoshogiku’s belly-bumping style also endeared him to fans, and his success brought much-needed excitement back into the sport.
The Sadogatake stable man even flirted with yokozuna promotion, going 7-1 to start the next tournament. But he collapsed in the second week against the higher-ranked wrestlers, and just like that his brief time in the spotlight was over.
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