Going into the final day of this year’s Osaka Grand Sumo Tournament, the two Mongolian yokozunas, Asashoryu and Hakuho, are tied for the lead with 2 losses each and will meet each other for the deciding match. Right behind them are two mid-level maegashira, the Georgian Kokkai and Estonian Baruto, with 3 losses each.
Seven rikishi are going into their final day with records of 7 wins and 7 losses, and therefore must win to retain their rank. It will be interesting to see how many of them win. (According to stats compiled in Freakonomics, about 5 out of 7 them will win.) All but one are facing opponents who have already secured a winning record, and the sole exception (Asasekiryu) faces an opponent who has no chance at securing one.
- Goeido (M8, 7-7) vs. Kakizoe (M14, 8-6)
- Wakanoho (M4, 7-7) vs. Tochinonada (M8, 8-6)
- Miyabiyama (M2, 7-7) vs. Baruto (M7, 11-3)
- Asasekiryu (M1, 7-7) vs. Aminishiki (M2, 6-8)
- Kotoshogiku (S, 7-7) vs. Kisenosato (K, 8-6)
- Ama (S, 7-7) vs. Kyokutenho (M4, 9-5)
- Kotomitsuki (O, 7-7) vs. Chiyotaikai (O, 8-6)
UPDATE: Sure enough, six out of seven won their final bouts. (The winners are in boldface.) Baruto had too much to prove to go easy on Miyabiyama. He and Kokkai ended up at 12-3, tied with Hakuho, who lost his final match with fellow yokozuna Asashoryu. Baruto and Kokkai both shared the Fighting Spirit Award for the tournament.
Did the losers intentionally take a fall? Maybe not. Maybe the winners were just hungrier for that last win. Also, except for the ozeki (O) and Baruto, the winners also outranked their respective opponents, which meant they had better records in the previous tournament than today’s losers did.
UPDATE 2: Like every major sport worldwide, sumo has its ongoing scandals. Washington Post foreign reporter Blaine Harden updates us on one of them, the beating death last year of a trainee.