The Champ Is Back!

AsashoryuAsashoryu the Great is back at the top of the sumo heap!

The March basho in Osaka finished last night in perfect grand style. After a see-saw battle throughout the first fourteen days, both the yokozuna, Asashoryu and the young lion and fellow-Mongolian Hakuho, came to the last day with records of two losses and twelve wins. Their bout — winner take all — would close out the tournament.

The evening was as full of sumo-Shinto ritual as final days should be, the hall was unusually packed from the very start of the bouts, and the rikishi responded by performing at their best: Most bouts were interesting contests, with very few simple blow-outs. As the lesser wrestlers fought for the lesser prizes, and for their positions in the next basho, the tension rose until at last it was here. Asashoryu and Hakuho strode onto the dohyo and went through the intricately synchronized pre-bout ceremonies. And then they were against each other, testing the other’s strength and balance, pushing with arms and bodies. And then suddenly Hakuho was in the air, crashing toward the floor. Asashoryu had thrown him with a wonderful technique.

It was Asashoryu’s twenty-second Emperor’s Cup and, while he stood with classic sumo stoicism as the referee officially announced the result of the bout, he punched the air and beamed his happiness as he strode from the arena through throngs of adoring fans. The boss is back!

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