Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon

Sumo in Fukuoka

Posted in Uncategorized by bourdaghs on the November 27th, 2010

Everyone was looking forward to the current sumo tournament in Fukuoka. Indeed, it’s turned out to be one of the most exciting basho we’ve had in years — but not for the reasons we anticipated. Before it began, all eyes were on the lone yokozuna Hakuho, who had not lost a match since January and who was therefore on track to break legendary Futabayama’s all-time record of 69 consecutive wins (set back in 1939) on day 8.

The breathless anticipation deflated rather suddenly when Kisenosato knocked off Hakuho on just the second day of the tournament, ending the winning streak at 63. That’s still the longest winning streak in sumo in 70+ years, if it’s any consolation.

But after that disappointment it quickly became apparent that we were in for an exciting tournament. For the first time in ages we could even pretend that the outcome was in doubt (yes, yes, I know that Hakuho will come back and win the championship in the end, but we can at least pretend that it’s not a done deal). Ozeki Kaio has apparently discovered the fountain of youth; after stumbling to the brink of retirement several times in the last few years, the 38-year-old veteran has wrestled brilliantly, moving quickly and with a power not seen from him in recent memory. He is now 11-3 and out of the title chase, but just a couple of days ago he was tied for the lead at 11-1, delighting his hometown fans in Fukuoka.

Ozeki Baruto also looks good, though he too has now faltered to an 11-3 mark. Giant-killer Kisenosato has turned in an impressive 10-4 record from the tough east maegashira 1 slot. Most impressive of all has been west maegashira 9 Toyonoshima, who is tied with Hakuho at 13-1 for the lead with just one day to go. If Toyonoshima wins his final match tomorrow (lucky him: his opponent will be Kisenosato) and if Hakuho gets the expected win against ozeki Kotooshu (a lackluster 8-6 so far), we’ll actually have a play-off match to decide the Emperor’s Cup title. Who would of thunk it?

In fantasy sumo I’ve scraped along to a 7-7 record. Tomorrow’s results will decide if I move up or down in the banzuke rankings for the New Year’s tournament in January. Either way, it’s been an exhilarating ride and it’s reminded me all over again of how much I love this sport.

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