July 2021 Grand Sumo Tournmanet: Days 7-9 Reflection

Hakuho and Terunofuji pull ahead, Kotonowaka and Ichiyamoto behind by two

Hakuho extended his spotless score-line to 9:0 on Day 9, claiming a comfortable victory over Maegashira #4 Chiyotairyu with a yorikiri (frontal force out) winning technique. While a successful bout for the Yokozuna against the struggling Chiyotairyu was to be expected (the Maegashira falling to a 2:7 record after the loss), the relative ease with which Hakuho has defeated his opponents throughout the event so far is surprising given that its his first basho back in the ring . The yūshō favourite, Hakuho, appears to be eying up his 45th career title, then, but he still has work to do; the Yokozuna will face Maegashira #5 Okinoumi, who holds a respectable 5:4 record after a loss to Ozeki Terunofuji on Day 9.

Despite the seemingly unfaltering prowess of Hakuho, four-time Makuuchi Division
champion Terunofuji continues to impress and matches his Yokozuna rival’s spectacular score of 9:0. Like Hakuho, Terunofuji is still yet to face a rival from the Sekiwake and Ozeki ranks and so he will have to keep his guard-up as he enters the final stages of the tournament. Having passed the half-way mark, it remains to be seen whether Terunofuji is able to claim the Emperor’s Cup and overcome the legendary Hakuho, thus furthering his basho success to three Division titles in a row.

While Hakuho and Terunofuji’s Ozeki, Sekiwake and Komusubi counterparts have struggled to keep up with their breathtaking efforts, two unlikely Maegashira competitors, Kotonowaka (Maegashira #11) and Ichiyamamoto (Maegashira #17) have shown that high rankings are not everything when it comes to predicting Sumo results. The two have already exceeded expectations, ending Day 9 with strong 7:2 scores.

After just nine days of fighting, Kotonowaka has already equalled his 7-8 result from the
May basho. Unable to achieve kachikoshi two months prior, Kotonowaka now looks set to
surpass the all-important 8-win milestone that aids promotion. In fact, Kotonowaka would
have already attained kachikoshi, if not for the mono-ii reversal in his bout versus Chiyonoo
on Day 8, seeing his rival Maegashira fighter take the win. Catching up to Hakuho and
Terunofuji, though, will be no easy feat, especially if Kotonowaka wishes to challenge the
pack leaders for the yūshō ; having already suffered two defeats, it seems unlikely
Kotonowaka can successfully threaten the leading Yokozuna and Ozeki fighters. That being
said, all things are possible; this is Sumo!

Facing off with Kotonowaka on Day 9 is Ichiyamamoto. Currently equalling Kotonowaka whilst also being the lowest ranked wrestler in Makuuchi (Maegashira #17), Ichiyamamoto is currently making his debut in the highest division of Sumo and has astounded us with his spectacular beginning to the basho. Out of his seven victories, Ichiyamamoto’s biggest upset has been in overcoming Maegashira #11 Kaisei, however, Ichyamamoto has found additional successes over Chiyomaru (Maegashira #13), Daiamami (Maegashira #14) and Tokushoryu (Maegashira #15). Can Ichiyamamoto defeat yet another Maegashira #11 wrestler? Bring on Day 10!

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