Having withdrawn from the November tournament due to a left ankle injury, new Ozeki Shodai looks to escape kadoban at Hatsu Basho 2020, only his second tournament at the rank. “I think it will recover well enough by that time,” a relaxed Shodai told reporters over the phone on Monday.
With taping fixed to his left ankle, Shodai had been practicing non-loadbearing exercises such as shiko and suriashi before the interview. Wanting to avoid putting too much pressure on his ankle or himself, “Kachi-koshi will be good enough,” he said. The Tokitsukaze fighter is dealing with his first major injury in six years of professional sumo, never having missed a match, even in the amateurs.
Shodai debuted at sumo’s second highest rank at Juichigatsu Basho in Tokyo earlier this month, after securing his first Emperor’s cup in September. He started out with some good sumo, taking out both Maegashira #1s on the first two days. The injury came about on day 3, when he went for tsukiotoshi against Komusubi Takayasu at the ring’s edge. This resulted in an awkward fall that tore a ligament in Shodai’s ankle. He limped away with the win, and left fans wondering if he’d come back.
“I got this injury partly because I was so stubbornly focused on winning,” said Shodai, biting his lip in frustration. “I couldn’t go kyujo on a whim. If there was a chance I could still compete, I didn’t want to withdraw.”
And so he did continue. On day 4 everyone gazed intently at the 29 year old’s ring entering gait, looking for signs of lingering injury. The problem was apparent directly after a collision with Daieisho, who took a very quick, one-sided match by tsukidashi. The decision to withdraw was difficult but obvious.
The medical certificate submitted to the sumo association the morning of day 5 explained that it was a tear of the distal tibiofibular ligament, and it was projected to take about 3 weeks of rest to heal.
Shodai made good use of his time off, watching the tournament footage on TV. “It gave me an uncomfortable feeling, but it ended up being a good experience for me,” he said. Looking at the positives, he was able to thoroughly observe the movements of other wrestlers that he normally would not have. After helplessly watching from home as fellow Ozeki Takakeisho took the yusho, Shodai assured reporters that he was not distraught. “It gives me good motivation. I have to keep at it.”
As for the current state of his ankle, “It doesn’t really hurt when I walk. And usually I don’t feel any pain when I do shiko. But if I pivot my body with my ankle fixed in one position, I feel a little pain with the twist,” he explained. Shodai says he’ll wait and see, but his plan is to attempt sparring later next month at the Kokugikan’s Sumo Training Institute.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” referring to the New Year basho starting January 10th in Tokyo, where he will need no less than eight wins to maintain his hard-earned rank. Assuring fans (and likely himself), “For me, it’s just amazing that I made it to Ozeki. I almost can’t believe it happened. I’d like to be able to climb the dohyo with pride (in January).”
Ozeki Asanoyama is also kadoban going into Hatsu Basho, having announced his withdrawal on day 3 of November’s meet. He was seeking his first yusho as an Ozeki, hoping to achieve it before the retirement of his (then) stablemaster. Unfortunately, Asanoyama didn’t come anywhere close, injurying his right shoulder in his day 2 match vs. Kiribayama.
Despite the major disappointment, Asanoyama was happy to tell reporters that his shoulder is healing well, with little to no pain or restriction. He will be going for gold once again in January under the guidance of the new Takasago-oyakata, former Sekiwake Asasekiryu.
Source: Nikkan Sports