After breaking Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu’s winning streak early in sumo’s Natsu Basho, the top maegashira Hokutoriki looked good to win the tournament. He was the giantkiller, knocking off the higher-ranked rikishi one after another. He “preserved his one loss” (ippai o mamotta), going into the final day at 13-1. But Asashoryu also managed to preserve his two losses, entering day 15 at 12-2.
Well, wouldn’t you know it: On the final day, Hokutoriki lost to Hakuho, a Mongolian rikishi making his “major league” (Makuuchi) debut. Meanwhile Asashoryu managed to best ozeki Chiyotaikai. The giant and the giantkiller, both tied at 13-2, were forced into a playoff, in which the giant once again prevailed. Asashoryu now has three tournament victories in a row, and seven in all. Hokutoriki and Hakuho, who finished at 12-3, split the well-deserved Fighting Spirit prize.
Georgian rikishi Kokkai, who made his Makuuchi debut last tournament, finished at an impressive 10-5. Of course, I’m rooting for him to do well but, most of all, I want Asashoryu to shatter every record that Takanohana set during the 1990s.
UPDATE: The Argus links to an article, Sumo Goes International, which reviews the rise of the Hawaiian and then Mongolian rikishi, then adds this about the up-and-coming Black Sea (rather than Black Ship) sumo recruits:
Georgia, a “martial arts kingdom” that has produced many Olympic medalists in wrestling and judo, is also proving fertile ground for sumo. Georgian wrestler Kokkai (Black Sea) was promoted to the [Makuuchi] division this spring. At the end of 2002, a sumo ring was opened in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, sparking a surge of interest in the sport. Kokkai was also trained by his father, a former wrestler, and was a European junior wrestling champion in the 130-kilogram weight class. Young men training at the Tbilisi center are inspired to become the “second Kokkai.”
Following on the heels of Kokkai is the Russian-born Roho, who in November became the second European and the first Russian sekitori wrestler. Roho, who hails from the Caucasus, located to the north of Georgia, is also a proven talent who won wrestling’s world junior championship at the age of 18. And Kotooshu [Harp-Europe], a 20-year-old Bulgarian who made his sumo debut in November 2002 and stands 202 centimeters tall, is also gunning for the upper ranks as the first wrestler to use his considerable height as a weapon. He, too, had competitive wrestling experience prior to coming to Japan.
BTW, the -HO (long -HOU) ending on several of the names can be translated ‘roc’ (the huge mythical bird): So the Russian Roho is Dew Roc, and the Mongolian Hakuho is White Roc.