Haru 2020 Day Five Recap
One-third of the basho is gone, which feels like a good time to take stock of the yusho race. Ten days means plenty of things are still in play. Yet the basho is beginning to have shape for certain rikishi with five matches under their mawashi.
Stop me if you've heard this one, but Hakuho is undefeated. The others joining him at 5-0 are an interesting group. Asanoyama and Aoiyama both get fusen-sho on Day Five to remain undefeated, but were fighting well. For Asanoyama, he would probably need something like 13 or 14 wins to have any shot at Ozeki. Aoiyama is having solid performances, which is a nice departure for him.
The real story is Mitakeumi, though. After some injuries and inconsistencies, he seemed to have lost his Sanyaku/Yusho form. Well, it's back. Not only has he won all five matches, he's done it with his best sumo. Consistently, he's getting up and under his opponent from the tachiai and making quick work of a match. He's already beaten a Sekiwake, Shodai, and an Ozeki, Takakeisho.
At least one wrestler will fall from this group on Day Six, as Asanoyama faces Mitakeumi in the day's best bout.
Now this is a fun grouping, because everyone here really needed a good basho. Kakuryu has been in weird Yokozuna-injury purgatory, and fighting like a top guy again is good to see. Kotonowaka is showing he might have a serious future with his makuuchi debut.
Everyone in between is out to prove they can do more than hang around their current spot. So far so good. Maybe the most interesting here are Chiyotairyu and Ishiura, who have just slightly changed up their signature styles. Takanosho is seeking a new level to his sumo. Onosho, meanwhile, is finally coming back into his own after two years of injury plagued inconsistency.
Welcome to the "things could certainy be worse" camp. Only Shodai could see his performance so far as a disappointment, as a truly exceptional basho might have put him in Ozeki consideration. On the other hand, being 3-2 means winning more than losing, which is always the goal in sumo.
There is an interesting divide here between those who have been fighting well and just had a close moment not go their way (Shodai, Endo, Kagayaki, Kiribayama, Azumaryu, Shimanoumi) and those who have looked both excellent and terrible depending on the day (Abi, Takarafuji, Terutsuyoshi, Ikioi, Chiyomaru.)
The idea of sumo is to get more wins than losses, so this isn't a great place to be. But 2-3 shows promise of turning it around. Certainly, most rikishi here will feel a kachi-koshi is still in reach with just a few tweaks to their sumo. And Kaisei, Meisei, and Daiamami will feel they can stave off a juryo demotion.
The real concern here is Takakeisho. An Ozeki, especially the only Ozeki on the banzuke, just shouldn't have 3 losses in the first five days. This should be the easy part of his schedule. The most worrying part is he just doesn't look like himself. Rikishi aren't being knocked back halfway across the dohyo after a hard shove. That could be physical, and his power is clearly lacking, but it's also strategic. He hasn't even really unleashed his usual tsuppari.
At least they have 1 win. Okinoumi at least has the excuse of having had to face all the top ranked rikishi. Everyone else has just been bad. Myogiryu has had moments, in a way, but Tamawashi, Shohozan, and Tochinoshin all look like sumotori who are seeing age and accumulated injury catch up with them. They still look the same at the start (but bandaged), yet are unrecognizable after the tachiai.
Tsurugisho sadly had to go kyujo. He hasn't looked right for all of 2020, and this will give him a chance to heal. It also will send him down to the second division.
All four of these men have had miserable tournaments, although of very different kinds. The fairy-tale is officially over for Tokushoryu now that he's got to start his basho with the Sanyaku. Tochiozan has just been ineffective, while Nishikigi has had no ability to generate any kind of offense. Nishikigi hasn't guaranteed he'll go back to Juryo, but he's got a lot of work to avoid it.
The real sad story is Takayasu. Something in his left knee went in his match against Kakuryu on Day Four. Likely, he will need some long recovering surgery, which would mean he would be out for months if not over a year. He could come back, but at 30 and with an injury like that, he might decide to call it a career. If so, it's a tough end. He will be remembered as an Ozeki with lots of ability, but he also will sadly wind up as one of the best to have never won a yusho.