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The New Year Sumo Tournament

Posted in Uncategorized by bourdaghs on the January 22nd, 2012

It ended today in Tokyo with yokozuna Hakuho knocking off ozeki Baruto (who had already sewn up the title three days earlier), thereby denying the latter a perfect record for the tournament. Here’s the Day 13 match against Kotoshogiku where Baruto clinched the title:

There were a few dodgy bouts toward the end, especially a henka (sidestepping your opponent at the face-off, a cheap win) that Baruto pulled on Day 12. But it was good to see the gentle giant from Estonia walk away with his first championship. Here’s hoping it’s the beginning of a drive for promotion to yokozuna.

Overall, the quality of the sumo was good. The clearing out of deadwood after the match-throwing scandals last year continues to pay off, with lots of ambitious young rikishi trying to take advantage of the unexpected opportunity to advance quickly through the ranks. The ozeki also performed well: except for Kotoshogiku (8-7), they all finished with double-digit wins.

Everyone seems pleased to have two Japanese at the ozeki rank now. This was especially true after the tournament began with a symbolic moment highlighting the recent dominance by foreigners. In the Kokugikan arena in Tokyo, they hang giant portraits of the winners of the last 32 sumo tournaments, 6+ years’ worth of champions, from the rafters. In preparation for opening day of this tournament, they took down the last remaining portrait of a Japanese wrestler, from Tochiazumua’s victory back in 2006. It’s been all Mongolians or Europeans since. Maybe Kisenosato or Kotoshogiku, the great Japanese hopes, will end that streak in 2012.

Two odd happenings during the tournament, caught on video. Gyoji (referee) Kimura Shozaburo was inadvertently flattened and knocked unconscious in a Day 4 match between Baruto and Wakakoyu (scary, but he was back on the job the next day):

Then on Day 8, way down in the Sandanme division, we had a remarkable size mismatch: Ohara (83 kilograms, or 183 pounds) vs. Orora (273 kilograms, or 602 pounds). Of course, the little guy won. Keep your eye on the big guy’s left foot as it steps out of the ring just before he shoves his opponent out:

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