Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon

A New Ozeki

Posted in Uncategorized by bourdaghs on the March 30th, 2010

I’ve just managed to catch up on my sumo, watching the video of last Sunday’s final day of matches from the Osaka tournament. They certainly saved the best for last: ozeki Harumafuji threw everything he had into a fierce bid to stop yokozuna Hakuho’s drive for a perfect 15-0 record in the final match of the basho. Hakuho prevailed in the end to take home the trophy in his first tournament as sole yokozuna, but I’m glad that I picked Harumafuji to win the bout in fantasy sumo anyhow. (It helps that I got my eighth victory and therefore a winning record for the tournament as a whole that day, despite my predicting an upset loss by Hakuho).

The big story of the tournament, though, was sekiwake Baruto. Coming into the tournament, it was public knowledge that 13 or more wins would earn him promotion to ozeki, the sport’s second highest rank. He finished at 14-1, knocking off all the existing ozeki and losing only to the yokozuna. It was clear from the start that something had changed in Baruto: Estonian by birth and the first blonde to reach the top division in sumo, he has always had a charming disposition, his face frequently lighting up with a smile that reminded me of illustrations of gentle giants from childhood picture books. The goofy grin was gone in Osaka: Baruto showed a serious visage throughout, reflecting a new seriousness of purpose. He also unleashed an expanded range of techniques and remarkable power. I only saw him smile once the whole tournament: as he walked down the back corridors on the last day after Hakuho’s victory over Harumafuji had eliminated his title hopes.

(Photo source: FourTildes)

The promotion council will meet tomorrow to make Baruto’s promotion to ozeki official. I hope we continue to see the new serious Baruto in the coming tournaments–but I also hope we’ll see that smile again someday, as he holds up the trophy for his first tournament win. I suspect that will happen before the end of 2010.

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