They’re off and shoving! Five days into the Starting Tournament of 2009 in Tokyo, four rikishi remain undefeated: the two Mongolian yokozuna, Asashoryu and Hakuho; the newly promoted sekiwake, Baruto from Estonia; and the rising maegashira Tochiozan from Kochi, Japan, home of the famous Tosa wrestling dogs (which are featured on his ceremonial apron).
Two ozeki, the Japanese veteran Chiyotaikai and the Bulgarian heartthrob Kotooshu, are only one loss behind. But the other two ozeki only have one win each so far: Japanese veteran Kotomitsuki and the lithe Mongolian crowd favorite Harumafuji, who changed his ring name (from Ama) after nearly winning the November tournament and earning promotion to the second highest rank. The latter two risk demotion if they don’t finish with more wins than losses.
UPDATE, Day 8: Tochiozan is still keeping pace with the two yokozuna at 8-0, with Baruto and Kotooshu right behind them at 7-1. Harumafuji has improved to 3-5, but still has to win 5 of his 7 remaining bouts to finish with a winning record.
UPDATE, Day 14: Harumafuji, now 8-6, has somehow managed to get the 8 wins he needs to keep his new rank of ozeki, but Kotomitsuki dropped out after falling to 2-10. Everyone except the two yokozuna have fallen off the pace. Unless Asashoryu (14-0) loses on the last day, he will coast to victory, with Hakuho (13-1) just one loss behind. Nice recovery by Asa, who hadn’t been wrestling very well before the tournament.
UPDATE, Day 15: Hakuho handed Asashoryu his first loss when they faced each other on the final day, leaving both tied at 14-1 and forcing a playoff, which Asashoryu then won, for his 23rd tournament title at the highest level.