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SUMO ABC (57) / Be defiant, Kisenosato — that’s the key to finding a way out

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Yokozuna Kisenosato, right, forces out No. 1 maegashira Shodai in their fourth-day match on July 12 in the Nagoya basho. During the match, the yokozuna kept his left arm bent.

By Shuji Miki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterYokozuna Kisenosato dropped out halfway through the past two consecutive basho. He withdrew from the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament in May on the 11th day, and from the Nagoya tournament in July on the sixth day.

Kisenosato’s reason for withdrawing from the Nagoya basho was that he hurt his left ankle in his fifth-day match against No. 3 maegashira Ikioi. But the fact that he could not use his left arm effectively due to a serious left shoulder injury he suffered several months ago is no doubt behind his slump.

At the Spring basho in March, Kisenosato hurt his left bicep, tendon and pectoralis major muscle when he took a powerful hit from fellow yokozuna Harumafuji. According to a medical specialist, the injury itself seems to have healed, but “the key is whether his muscles and tendon have returned to the condition they were in before he got injured.”

The specialist says that Kisenosato needs to gradually put more pressure on his muscles and tendon through practice and training and get himself “back to the point where he himself is convinced he feels fine.” In short, the fact that his injury has healed has little meaning unless the yokozuna feels psychologically that he is fully recovered.

One of Kisenosato’s psychological concerns is the fear of being injured again. Even if he works hard in practice, the power he builds up there cannot be compared to that which he generates in an actual tournament match. For example, in spite of all the practice with his stablemate Takayasu, the ozeki worries about Kisenosato’s injury and can’t help but become hesitant about jostling the yokozuna too strongly.

For Kisenosato’s part, he seems to be facing a subtle gap between actual matches and how he prepares for them.

On his fifth-day match in the Nagoya basho, he was not aggressive in attacking from his left side.

“It’s a matter of his mentality. Kisenosato seems to have returned to how he was when he was an ozeki,” said Hideshige Moriya, who is both a doctor specializing in orthopedics and a former chairman of the Yokozuna Deliberation Council.

It’s a personal opinion, but I don’t think Kisenosato’s condition will improve by skipping tournaments. There’s no other way for him to recover his confidence but to return to the ring. A yokozuna needs to think about retiring when the number of losses start to pile up. I expect Kisenosato to appear in the Autumn tournament in September and to fight defiantly. That’s the only way, I think, for him to find a way out.

— Miki is a sumo expert.

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