It came down to the wire, but one of the most dominant sumo stars came out on top on the final day of the Grand Sumo Tournament. Mongolian Yokozuna Hakuho won his final two bouts to earn his 44th Emperor’s Cup.
Hakuho was performing under a different environment compared to what he is used to in Japan. The tournament was in question due to the coronavirus. Officials managed to salvage the event by closing off the arena to just the competitors and essential personnel. Hakuho was on a roll, winning bout after bout in front of an empty arena.
“On the very first day, I felt really strange, and it was really difficult to maintain motivation,” Hakuho stated, via Kyodo News. “There were a lot of ups and downs, but it was not just me. Everybody felt the same way.”
Things got interesting for Hakuho, who lost his first and second bouts just as the 15-day tournament was about to end. As a result, he was out of first and there were a number of stars on his tail. On Saturday, however, the field was down to just Hakuho and Kakuryu, who won their bouts to advance to Sunday’s final clash. Kakurya barely won his bout, as he and Asanoyama flew out of the ring, but the latter’s elbow touched the outside first. Hakuho deflected a charge and grab attempt by Aoiyama, shunting him down to the surface.
This was the first time in six years something like this happened. On Sunday, both Mongolian-born sumo stars with a 12-2 record gave it their all. Hakuho missed a charge and Kakuryu tried taking advantage with a belt grip. Hakuho, however, deflected it with one of his own and moved his opponent with such force out of the ring.
“I was able to regain calmness and I think I was able to move very nimbly,” said Hakuho, who took Japanese citizenship last year. To undergo such an unprecedented tournament is not just a very good experience for my sumo career, but my life as a whole.”
In other action, the other top fighters were able to secure their spots. Asanoyama will most likely receive an upgrade in status following an 11-4 run. Moving up as well, number nine Takanosho (12-3) won his last bout. Takanosho made things exciting until the end and will look to be a heavy favorite in the next few meets.