Hatsu 2021 Day Eight
Match of the Day
Maegashira 6 West Kagayaki versus Maegashira 1 West Daieisho
Kagayaki had him. He absolutely had Daieisho dead to rights after carefully avoiding the powerful thrusting attack and taking hold. Kagayaki worked Daieisho to the rice bales, and that looked like Daieisho's first loss. Then Daieisho, pure oshi man, twirled, grabbed Kagayaki's arm, and unleashed a tottari, all while dancing on the edge of the dohyo.
Daiamami over Kotonowaka
Tamawashi over Takakeisho
Mitakeumi over Shodai
In addition to Daieisho's wondrous, balettic tottari, Myogiryu's sukuinage to defeat Akua wound up putting Akua on his head. That was something.
Going into the Hatsu basho, the storyline was COVID-19. Amid a breakout across Japan and positive tests for rikishi, there was a serious threat Hatsu 2021 would not happen. Once the whole Sumo Association got tests, entire stables had to be kyujo. The basho would move ahead, but with a very odd feeling and a looming threat of falling apart at any moment.
Thankfully, the Coronavirus has not been a further story over the first 8 days of Hatsu. Maybe it should be considered, but not the way we worried. The on-dohyo story is undoubtedly Daieisho. The Oitekaze wrestler has made kachi-koshi in the minimum number of matches. More than that, he has beaten every Sanyaku wrestler and has a two win lead in the Yusho race. He has also just plain looked impressive.
Aside from Daieisho, the story has been inconsistency. Takakeisho's rope-run fell apart in two days. Shodai and Asanoyama have had awkward matches enough to be off the pace. Even lower level rikishi who have looked strong at times, from Ichinojo to Akiseyama to Midorifuji to Kotonowaka, have also had their odd moments. No one has gone Kyujo or looked like they absolutely should, but sumotori across Makuuchi have had odd matches.
Perhaps the very odd training stables were forced to implement has made the wrestlers less than perfect. Rikishi could even be feeling aftereffects of diagnosed or undiagnosed COVID cases. Takakeisho, for instance, doesn't look injured as much he just looks like the 75% version of himself. Shodai and Asanoyama have occasionally been walking gingerly after matches.
This is also just the way sumo goes sometimes. Right now, sumo is in an upheaval, with Yokozuna fading out and young stars rising. That process has not been linear, but it has clearly been ongoing. It's also not finished, and how everything will shake out is unclear. Daieisho is unlikely to get a zensho-yusho, if only because those are so rare. Beyond this basho, it would seem foolish to predict what else will happen. Becoming an Ozeki is tough, and becoming a Yokozuna is even tougher. That warning is true for everyone.
Right now, just enjoy what Daieisho is doing and all the surprises happening in every other match.