Sumo

Kotonishiki experienced historic success without reaching ozeki

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

Of the four ranks in sumo’s top division, komusubi is the one at which a rikishi is least likely to win a championship.

Since the advent of the six-tournament system in 1958, yokozuna have lifted the Emperor’s Cup on 294 occasions, ozeki have won 84 titles, sekiwake have emerged victorious 19 times, while komusubi have won just five tournaments.

Although becoming a champion as a maegashira is much easier than as a komusubi, managing that feat a second time is exponentially less likely, with just one man in history having achieved it so far.

Kotonishiki’s two championships are more than those of one yokozuna (Futahaguro) and numerous ozeki.

Indeed, not a single one of the last nine men promoted to the latter rank has managed to win a second title (or in Takayasu’s case a first.)

Kotonishiki took his first Emperor’s Cup in 1991 as a No. 5 maegashira. Both yokozuna pulled out of that tournament, but he fought the six-highest remaining men in the rankings, and went 13-2 overall, only losing to the Hanada brothers — both of whom would later become yokozuna.

Seven years later Kotonishiki (literally) went one better with a 14-1 record and split the Hanada series against the (by now) yokozuna pair of Wakanohana and Takanohana.

Those two championships weren’t Kotonishiki’s only achievements, however.

Although not a big rikishi, his high-speed pushing style (nicknamed F1 sumo) helped him to four runner-up performances, eight wins over yokozuna and an incredible 18 special prizes over the course of his 16-year career.

After retirement Kotonishiki had trouble finding a permanent name share and was forced to borrow and use seven different elder names until he finally gained ownership over the Asahiyama stock and opened a stable under the same name in 2016.

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