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SUMO | Terunofuji Collects Third Career Title, Secures Promotion Back to Ozeki

“Without support from my fans, I would not have made a comeback here, so please continue to support me,” Spring Basho winner Terunofuji said.

Ed Odeven

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With a forceful, final shove that showcased his strength, sekiwake Terunofuji completed his 15-day quest to win another title. The 29-year-old Mongolian, one of the top title contenders in several recent tournaments, defeated ozeki Takakeisho to seal the deal in the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday, March 28.

To secure the victory, Terunofuji recovered from a miscalculation that found him on the brink of a possible defeat and with his feet near the edge of the dohyo. But he avoided getting dropped to the dirt by Takakeisho at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan. He regained the upper hand, forcing the action toward the middle of the ring.

Terunofuji then finished his work shift with a powerful shove that sent Takakeisho backpedaling out of the ring to end the match.

At the outset of the match, Terunofuji had sought to yank his foe’s arm, but he failed to grab it, and Takakeisho pounced on the miscue and his muscular momentum carried the sekiwake to the metaphorical edge of the cliff.

With a combined 36 victories over the past three tournaments (three more than the minimum benchmark), Terunofuji is on the verge of promotion back to ozeki.

“I was relieved to win,” Terunofuji admitted after receiving the Emperor’s Cup. “Without support from my fans, I would not have made a comeback here, so please continue to support me.”

With a look of accomplishment in his eyes, Terunofuji, who hasn’t competed as an ozeki since September 2017, reflected on his career resurgence, which has taken him from the jonidan division (second-lowest) to the brink of ozeki again.

“I am so glad I did not quit sumo,” he said on the NHK telecast.

The Isegahama stable wrestler added: “I was just taking it one day at a time [in my comeback], training hard every day. Doing so, I believed this day would come, so I’m really happy.

“I focused on being confident in the ring, and that was my main thing. Sumo doesn’t always go the way you want it to.”

Terunofuji also received the Shukun-sho (Outstanding Performance Award).

It was Terunofuji’s first title since capturing the Emperor’s Cup at the July Grand Sumo Tournament last year. That title ended a long championship drought for the powerful grappler. He hadn’t won a title since the 2015 Summer Basho, and his career descended in a downward spiral due to injuries and illness.

Takakeisho defeated Terunofuji in a playoff to win the 2020 November Basho. 

Entering the penultimate day of the Spring Basho, Terunofuji and Takayasu shared the lead with 10-3 records.

Terunoji then strengthened his title hopes by pushing opponent Asanoyama out of the raised ring to improve to 11-3. On the same day, Takayasu suffered his second straight defeat, losing to Tobizaru.

Other Noteworthy Spring Basho Performances

In an earlier match, Bulgarian Aoiyama conquered komusubi Takayasu (10-5). The No. 12 maegashira raised his record to 11-4.

Asanoyama, No. 15 Hidenoumi, No. 8 Tobizaru, No. 2 Wakatakakage, No. 3 Meisei and No. 14 Tsurugisho all finished with 10-5 records.

Meisei received the Fighting Spirit Prize after his final-day win over Tsurugisho. Aoiyama also garnered the prize.

Wakatakakage, who recorded a pair of wins over ozeki foes in the Spring Basho, collected the Technique Prize.

Kakuryu Announces Retirement

Injury-plagued yokozuna Kakyuru announced his retirement on Thursday, March 25.

The Mongolian-born wrestler has missed five consecutive tournaments due to injuries. He pulled out of Spring Basho due to a left hamstring injury. In addition, he has been forced to miss competitions due to elbow and lower back problems.

The 35-year-old Kakuryu, who began his sumo career at the 2001 Kyusho Grand Sumo Tournament, won the Emperor’s Cup six times. He was promoted to yokozuna in 2014.

Now, a “relieved” Kakuryu can look ahead to his future. 

“I somehow feel like I have been freed. I decided to retire because I felt I never wanted to step into the ring halfheartedly,” Kakuryu was quoted as saying by Kyodo News. “Am I happy? I’m relieved.”

Fellow yokozuna Hakuho withdrew from the tournament on March 16 due to a knee injury.


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[JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Injured Yokozuna Hakuho, Kakuryu Move A Step Closer to End of Sumo Careers
SUMO | Daieisho Collects First Emperor’s Cup, Continues Trend of First-Time Winners at New Year Basho



Author:  Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward’s [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays,  in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven.

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Ed Odeven is a longtime sports journalist who previously worked for The Japan Times as its chief basketball reporter for nearly 14 years. He also covered a wide range of other sports for the newspaper, including at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Games. A graduate of Arizona State University, Odeven worked for several newspapers in the Grand Canyon State before moving to Japan. He has freelanced for dozens of media outlets around the world.