July 12, 2007


Most ranking levels in Sumo are decided by a rather secret committee. Whether a given wrestler is an Ozeki, or Sekiwake, or whatever, is decided by this dark group.

But advancement to Yokozuna is public and based on a very simple criterion: a lesser rank who wins two tournaments in a row becomes Yokozune.

That's actually nicely self-balancing, because when Yokozuna lose their winning form they're expected to retire. So if there is no current Yokozuna it's very likely that someone will become one. And if there are two or three, it's very unlikely that anyone of lesser rank will advance.

For the last couple of years, since Mushashimaru retired, there has only been one, Asashoryu. He was the youngest man ever to become Yokozuna. And since then he's been kicking major butt. He won all six tournaments in 2005, and four out of six in 2006. At age 27 he already has 20 wins, and barring mischance he'll set records. But out of nowhere, it almost seems, he suddenly got a competitor worthy of him, name of Hakuho.

And in May Hakuho won his second straight tournament, and is now a Yokozuna.

Why is this noteworthy? Because they're both from Mongolia. And in fact, only two of the last six Yokozuna have been Japanese. (And one of those retired only a year after he became Yokozuna.)

I've heard that Sumo is falling in popularity. One claim I heard was that fans didn't like Asashoryu. But I wonder if some of it is racism -- and simple pique.

UPDATE: I was curious about something, so I did some research. Asashoryu became Yokozuna Jan 30, 2003. He was born Sep 27, 1980. So he was 22 years and 4 months old.

Hakuho was born March 11, 1985. He became Yokozuna May 30, 2007. So he was 22 years and 3 months old, even younger than Asashoryu was.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in People at 09:42 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 Is it possible for someone to skip ranks by meeting the Yokozuna criterion before being promoted to the next lower rank?

Posted by: metaphysician at July 12, 2007 10:53 AM (lXszF)

2 I don't actually know that much about it. For instance, I don't know if a wrestler has to be an ozeki before being promoted to yokozuna.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 12, 2007 02:16 PM (+rSRq)

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