July 2021 Grand Sumo Tournament: Days 1-3 Reflection.

Yokozuna Hakuho is back with a blast!

Sumo’s most decorated wrestler, Yokozuna Hakuho, who has won 44 career Makuuchi
Division titles, began his campaign in the July event in a truly dominant fashion. Despite returning from injury – the Mongolian-born wrestler was forced to undergo endoscopic surgery on his knee after pulling out from the May competition – Hakuho managed to find three strong victories over Komusubi Meisei and the two Maegashira #1 competitors, Daieisho and Endo. As a result, the Yokozuna ended Day 3 of proceedings with a perfect 3:0 record, looking to extend his unspoilt score as he faces Maegashira #2 Takanosho on Day 4.

Equalling Hakuho’s impressive start is none other than Ozeki Terunofuji: having already won two Makuuchi Division titles this year, it comes as little surprise to see Terunofuji emerge unscathed after the first three days of wrestling in the ring. Wins over the exciting Komusubi Wakatakakage and Takanosho (Hakuho’s opponent on Day 4), saw Terunofuji to an emphatic start the tournament. While Terunofuji fans will be pleased with the Ozeki’s current form, they will have to wait patiently to see whether he can continue his pursuit for his third consecutive title, especially with Hakuho once again back in the running for yet another Championship title.

Day 3 offered dissapointing news for Ozeki Takakeisho fans. In his short bout versus Ichinojo, Takakeisho appeared to completely lose control, being pushed out of the ring without any resistance. Terrifyingly, Takakeisho stayed down, unable to move; he subsequently diagnosed with a reported neck injury that looked in need of immediate attention. As a result, the Ozeki was forced to withdraw from the July tournament on Day 3, giving Meisei a win by fusen. Takakeisho is expected to be out of action for a recovery period of around 1 month.

Although Yokozuna Hakuho and Ozeki Terunofuji were the only top ranked rikishi to boast
an unbeaten record after Day 3, a trio of Maegashira fighters – Maegashira #15 Tsurugisho, #11 Kotonowaka and #10 Tamawashi – have also earnt their claim to fame, remaining undefeated alongside their Ozeki and Yokozuna counterparts.

Tsurugisho, the lowest ranked of the three, was perhaps the most surprising of the Maegashira bunch. Returning to the Makuuchi Division in March, Maegashira #15 Tsurugisho has had a rather mixed bag of results: despite his impressive performance in the 2021 March event (in which he recorded a 9:6 score), Tsurugisho found little success in May, leaving the ring with just 4 wins to 11 losses. Interestingly and in complete contrast to this July basho, Tsurugisho really struggled out of the gate in the previous two tournaments, so it will be interesting to see whether the Maegashira #15 wrestler can turn his unfortunate May result on the head in this month’s event.

Middleman Kotonowaka also looks to be in form as he takes victories over similarly ranked
Tochinoshin, Kagayaki and Terutsuyoshi. Sitting at Maegashira #11, Kotonowaka looks to
take his first kachikoshi since the first Sumo event of the year, the 2021 January tourney, in
which he listed an incredible 10:5 score line, ranked just Maegashira #15 at the time of
participation.

Facing Kotonowaka on Day 4 is Tamawashi. Like Kotonowaka, Tamawashi stole wins from
close ranked opponents, such as Shimanoumi on Day 1 and Hidenoumi on Day 3. While
Kotonowaka appears to be in decent form at the beginning of this basho, he could well be considered the underdog in his Day 4 matchup with Tamawashi: the Mongolian-born Tamawashi was formerly a Makuuchi Division Champion. That being said, Tamawashi’s track- record this year has been far from fruitful, failing to find, as of yet, a single kachikoshi, meaning Tamawashi will need to be fully focused on his sumo, facing off against Kotonowaka as he looks to further his unbeaten score line.

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