Hakuho Aims To Steal Back Spotlight

Hakuho aims to steal back spotlightAs Kisenosato makes his debut at sumo’s top rank today at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka, fellow yokozuna Hakuho is ready to steal the spotlight that had previously shone so brightly on him.
The tournament is the first in 17 years with a quartet of yokozuna in the rankings. Hakuho has held the rank for nearly 10 years since earning promotion following the Summer tournament in 2007.

However, after extending his own record by winning a 37th title at last year’s Summer basho, the Mongolian has not taken home the Emperor’s Cup for four straight tournaments, his longest drought as a yokozuna.

At the previous tournament in January, which Kisenosato won to secure promotion to the top rank, Hakuho suffered losses to two rank-and-file maegashira wrestlers.

Hakuho, who turned 32 on Saturday, has seen his power wane of late, particularly late in the tournaments when he has had a tendency to fade. Kisenosato’s promotion has provided new incentive.

“The emergence of a new yokozuna has become a source of motivation,” Hakuho said. “I want to work hard as the front runner of the four yokozuna and two ozeki.”

Ahead of the tournament at Edion Arena Osaka, Hakuho made a rare visit to Kisenosato’s Tagonoura Stable to spar with the rookie yokozuna. In one bout, Hakuho squarely seized Kisenosato with a left-handed outside grip, and strongly marched his opponent out of the ring.

Stablemaster Miyagino, Hakuho’s mentor, praised the session, saying, “Instead of responding to the opponent’s moves, he took the initiative and made aggressive moves forward.”

Hakuho enters the tournament 28 wins away from Kaio’s all-time career record of 1,047 wins.

Meanwhile, Kakuryu and Harumafuji, both of whom withdrew during the middle of the New Year tournament, aim to bounce back and wipe away those bitter memories.

“All I’m looking for is to win the title,” said Kakuryu, whose withdrawal due to several injuries, mainly one in his left shoulder, came after winning the Kyushu tournament in November.

“I won’t be bothered by the fact I withdrew from the previous basho, and concentrate on what’s in front of me,” Kakuryu added.

There are concerns about the recovery of Harumafuji, who injured his right hamstring during the New Year tournament.

But the yokozuna expressed his determination, saying, “I’ll faithfully carry out my responsibilities [as a yokozuna].”