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SUMO ABC (79) / Tochinoshin-Hakuho bout in next tournament should be a doozy

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Tochinoshin, right, after forcing out yokozuna Hakuho on Day 12 of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament on May 24

By Shuji Miki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterGeorgian Tochinoshin was recently promoted to ozeki. His results and performance are entirely satisfactory. They are worthy of the new ozeki who will surely excite many sumo fans at the next grand sumo tournament, and thereafter.

Tochinoshin’s style in the ring has changed since the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, at which he captured the Emperor’s Cup as a rank-and-file makuuchi wrestler.

Before that, his wrestling style was built solely on strength. He needed only to tug on his opponent’s mawashi, no matter what position he was in. His sumo was prosaic and forceful.

However, in the January tournament, he switched styles, pulling his opponent’s mawashi while also charging ahead. In this style, Tochinoshin maintains pressure on opponents with forward movement that enables him to easily pull his opponents along once he locks onto their mawashi.

Many of his opponents lose the ability to move freely once Tochinoshin latches both hands onto their mawashi. Tochinoshin’s new style now forces his opponents to come up higher or lose their balance.

To be honest, though, I never imagined Tochinoshin could ever make himself into an ozeki when he held the Emperor’s Cup in the January tournament.

Whenever stepping into the dohyo, Tochinoshin turns red — his face and entire body. That image got me thinking that his style of sweeping opponents off with fighting spirit can work negatively.

I was wondering if he could maintain his spirit toward the Spring and Summer tournaments in both March and May. I could not cast aside concern that such a fighting spirit can leave him spinning his wheels.

But, that concern was unfounded. On the 12th day of the Summer basho, Tochinoshin secured a right-handed grip on the belt of yokozuna Hakuho and was locked up with him after meeting chest to chest at the jump-off. I thought his approach was reckless, but Tochinoshin forced the yokozuna out head-on, giving the 40-time champion no chance to fight back. This victory made Tochinoshin’s promotion a certainty.

I thought Hakuho also was good as a yokozuna because he applied the yotsuzumo approach, in which each wrestler grasped the other’s belt.

Hakuho could have pushed Tochinoshin at the initial charge, and Tochinoshin was certainly worried the yokozuna might employ tsuppari open-handed strikes. But Hakuho chose to stand tall and take on Tochinoshin’s challenge, as if the yokozuna were using his own body to gauge the breadth of Tochinoshin’s strength.

That’s how sumo and yokozuna should be. I think their bout in the next tournament will also be a good one.

— Miki is a sumo expert.

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