- Fantasy Basho
Haru 2021 Day Fifteen
Kiribayama beat Takarafuji by okurihikiotoshi, or the rear pull down. That feels like the officials saying a rikishi got turned around and was wildly pulling, but somehow still pulled out the win for no good reason.
Match of The Day
Ozeki 2 East Takakeisho versus Sekiwake East Terunofuji
To Takakeisho's credit, he didn't allow Terunofuji to get a mawashi grip. It didn't matter. Terunofuji bore in on Takakeisho and shoved him in a way that surprised Takakeisho. Terunofuji is a powerful rikishi who can often win from a losing position, but this was him winning when he shouldn't. He just went after it.
Looking back, Haru 2021 will be seen as Terunofuji's basho. He achieved 12 wins to get the Emperor's Cup. That is now his third yusho, and his second since returning to Makuuchi in July 2020. He will also be getting an Ozeki promotion, since he got 36 wins, a yusho, and two jun-yusho in his last three tournaments. That's what he had to do to return to Ozeki after four years, and more importantly after a monumental comeback from injury. More strikingly, he was in Jonidan, the second lowest division, in March 2019.
We just experienced the basho, so we can know it wasn't always obviously Terunofuji's basho. The leader for most of the fifteen days was Takayasu, another former Ozeki still coming back from injury. Takayasu couldn't hold on well enough. Coming into Day Fifteen, Takakeisho controlled his own destiny. If he beat Terunofuji, he would have forced a playoff. Oddly, the playoff would have featured Takakeisho, Terunofuji, and the Bulgarian veteran Maegashira 12 West Aoiyama. Aoiyama got the Fighting Spirit prize by beating Takayasu on Senshuraku. He shares that with Meisei. Wakatakakage was awarded the Technique Prize. Terunofuji, naturally, won the Outstanding Performance Prize.
Terunofuji's elevation to Ozeki will create a lower Sanyaku slot. Problematically for the Banzuke Committee, three rikishi have performed well enough in Haru to earn a Sanyaku slot. Maegashira 2 West Wakatakakage and Maegashira 3 East Meisei both earned 10 wins, while Maegashira 2 East Hokutofuji achieved 9 victories. (Although Hokutofuji lost to Wakatakakage on Day Fifteen, which could be a determinant.) Even without Yokozuna because of the retiring Kakuryu and a questionable Hakuho, May will likely feature another tough group at the top of the Banzuke.
On the other end, Kotoshoho and Yutakayama performed poorly enough to earn demotions to Juryo. With Kakuryu's retirement, that should make three promotion slots. Ishiura, Akua, and Chiyomaru will likely be the three rikishi coming up to Makuuchi. Those three are Makuuchi veterans who sharpened their sumo in the second division during March. May will feature all familiar faces, settling into familiar spots.
Yet Terunofuji's comeback is something more impressive. He should not have done this. No one would have begrudged a retirement two years ago. Now, he has performed better than any rikishi over the last year. He still has competition among his fellow Ozeki, all of whom are former yusho winners. Sanyaku is loaded now, too. But bet against Terunofuji at your own peril.