Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Sumo tourny finale

To my total delight, Harumafuji (nee Ama) came through to win the Gogatsu Basho (May sumo tournament), finishing with a record of 14 wins and one loss, and beating Hakuho in a playoff for the championship. I felt my efforts in crawling out of bed to watch the tournament live via the sumo association's live web feed more than amply rewarded.

Here's how things unfolded in the last week:

Day 13
Asashoryu (11-1) vs Koto-oshu (8-4)

Having already lost once, Asashoryu needed a win to keep up with the leaders, Hakuho and Harumafuji (both unbeaten.)

Koto-oshu annoys the hell out of me for always making his opponent wait before the bout, which he did again this time, the arrogant turkey. To his credit, he made a good bout of it and Asa had to pull out a magnificent throw to win it.

Day 13
Hakuho (12-0) vs Harumafuji (12-0)

These two were tied for the lead and the winner would be favourite to lift the Emperor's Cup. Harumafuji was on top initially, spinning his opponent and keeping him off balance, but Hakuho kept a cool head and had the presence of mind to employ the cute little leg-sweep which won him the fight: not a technique much seen in top bouts.

Day 14
Hakuho (13-0) vs Koto-oshu (8-5)

Having established himself as sole frontrunner in the tournament, Hakuho then ballsed it up completely, being thrown ignobly to the dirt by Koto-shu. Koto, for his part, wasn't above side-stepping his opponent at the outset of the bout, which is Not The Done Thing (see previous post.)

Day 14
Harumafuji (12-1) vs Asashoryu (12-1)

With Hakuho having suffered his first loss, the door was open for the winner of this bout to mount a challenge for the title. Asa's prodigious strength wasn't enough, as Harumafuji pulled out an unusual leg technique of his own to set up the throw.

Day 15
Koto-oshu (9-5) vs Harumafuji (13-1)

Harumafuji looked in trouble with his right arm caught high and nowhere near his opponent's belt; another bit of quick thinking to grab his opponent round the neck and drive his pretty face into the floor.

Day 15
Hakuho (13-1) vs Asashoryu (12-2)

Wanting Asa to win and gift Harumafuji his first tournament title, I was a bit pissed off that the judges let Hakuho get away with what looked like a complete false start at the beginning of the bout. Asa looked out of sorts and meekly allowed himself to be bullied out of the ring.

Championship play off
Hakuho vs Harumafuji

(Those of you who don't speak Japanese / aren't avid followers of sumo will probably find the first 5 mins 30s a bit of a waste of time.)

By now, I was on my 3rd cup of tea of the morning and a yampy mess. Harumafuji used the same plan as day 13, except he managed to keep Hakuho off his belt and levered his opponent's leg with his free hand to force him down.

I was delighted and put the kettle on for my fourth cup of tea while Harumafuji gave his victory interview. Belying his normal reputation for taciturnity, he announced that he was "happy" and, when pressed to elaborate on this, conceded that he was "really happy."


Most gratifying was the manner of the tournament victory: over the last year or so, Harumafuji has picked up the happy knack of "winning ugly", picking up most of his victories via yorikiri (grabbing opponent by belt and bulldozing him out of the ring) and oshidashi (getting your opponent out of the ring with a good old shove.) The grey slice marked "other" which once dominated a glorious 20% of the pie chart on the sumo web page detailing Harumafuji's winning techniques has shrivelled to single figures. Winning ugly got him up to Ozeki rank and it's good technical sumo, but not so good to watch as the old days of Ama scampering round the ring, pulling down larger opponents; watching him open up the bag of tricks for the last three victories was much better.


The Asa VS. Kotooshu was the highlight of the tournament for me. I didn't see the bout with the mizu-iri in it though.--VMM
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