Tonight is the last session of the Winter basho in Kyushu. With the withdrawal of injured yokozuna Asashoryu and the recent dominance of yokozuna Hakuho, many sumo fans had low expectations from this tournament. But we were wrong.
There had always been one point of interest: One of the rules of thumb in sumo is that for a senior rikishi to win 33 bouts over three consecutive bashos entitles him to serious consideration for promotion to ozeki, the rank immediately below yokozuna. Our favourite, Ama, the smallest of all the senior rikishi, needed 11 wins this time to qualify, and his fan clubs have been out in force most days to cheer him on. To rising public acclaim, Ama has exceeded all our expectations with wonderful technique to overcome his weight and size disadvantage.
With just tonight to go, Ama already sits at 12-2, level with Hakuho at the top of the tournament. And Ama beat Hakuho two nights ago to get himself into a chance to win the tournament outright. Hakuho fights ozeki Kotomitsukui tonight, while Ama faces lower-ranked Baruto. If Ama wins and Hakuho loses, then Ama wins the Emperor’s Cup (and vice versa, of course). If they both win, then there is a special winner-take-all bout between the two at the end of the evening.
Beyond the Ama sensation, I have to say that the level of sumo seems really high this tournament. The lower ranked rikishi have been putting on quite the show; and mostly to a half-empty arena. Last night the house was full — as I am sure it will be tonight — but some of the mid-week audiences have been less than stellar. Oh well; they’ve missed a treat.
I’ve already had my nap to ensure I stay awake until the finish at about 1 tomorrow morning!