Le Monde du Sumo
N°1 - december 2003
(Click on the picture to download
the full french issue, with pictures,...)
On the evening of the seventh day of last Kyushu Basho (2003), Yokozuna Musashimaru announced his retirement. He can look back on an exceptional career.
Musashimaru Koyo was born on May 2nd 1971 in the Samoan Isles, but grew up in Hawaii. His imposing build quickly drew notice to him. In 1989 he was recruited by Musashigawa Oyakata, former Yokozuna Mienoumi, and made his official debut in September of the same year. His progress was lightening quick- in a space of only ten tournaments he made it to the Juryo division. His style was based above all on the power granted to him by his one meter ninety-two frame carrying a hundred and fifty kilos. He worked extremely hard in order to catch up with three other great hopes: Takahanada, Wakahanada and his compatriot and rival Akebono.
Yet, the tournaments passed, and there was no promotion for Musashimaru. Not because his performances as Ozeki were weak, but because he was barred by the two Yokozuna Akebono and above all Takanohana who strung up yusho like pearls. In November of 1996, Musashimaru won the second yusho of his career with a mediocre score of 11-4, after a historic five-rikishi playoff. During the Hatsu Basho 1998, he profited from the bad form of Takanohana and Akebono to notch up his third title. During that same year, Wakanohana III stole his thunder, and became Yokozuna. At the end of 1998, aged 27, Musashimaru seemed destined to the role of an eternal Ozeki, like his old rival Takanonami.
1999: Musashimaru’s year! In spite of a pitiful 8-7 in January, he went on to win the Haru and Natsu Basho one after the other, and was thus promoted to Yokozuna, the 67th in history. When the celebrations of the promotion to the highest rank had subsided, he went on to win the final two tournaments of the year. Four titles in one year! In one year, Musashimaru gained a new dimension. His style did not change remarkably, but his confidence allowed him to move mountains. And what is more, he was the number one rikishi of the most powerful heya of the time.
Even though Aki Basho of 2002 is one of his career’s high points, it was then that Musashimaru injured his left wrist. Nevertheless, he took part in Kyushu Basho and on the fifth day, against Takanonami, he injured himself more gravely. This injury would keep him away from the ring until Nagoya Basho 2003. His return was far from fruitful, and he withdrew from the tournament on the evening of itsuka-me (the fifth day). He did not participate in the September tournament and returned to the ring in Fukuoka, in November. He was unable to make use of his left hand though, and his results showed that. After four losses in the first seven days of the tournament, he decided to withdraw for good. If Musashimaru did spend a long time under the shadows of Takanohana and Akebono, that doesn’t make him any less a great Sumo figure of the 1990s.
An exceptional build distinguished Musashimaru above all. With 1.92m for 237 kg at the maximum of his weight, he became the heaviest Yokozuna in history. Preferring efficiency to the beauty of movement, he developed the most powerful oshi-zumo. However, one must not underestimate Musashimaru’s other qualities. He possessed an amazing balance, mastered body-to-body wrestling to perfection, and was endowed with phenomenal power. In fourteen years he notched up twelve tournament titles, two gino-sho (technique prize), one kanto-sho (fighting spirit prize) and one shukun-sho (exceptional performance prize) and he was second behind the yusho winner 14 times. In his 73 tournaments in Makuuchi division, he had 706 victories (4th ever), suffered 226 losses and was absent from 115 bouts.
The former sekitori Sentoryu, after battling bitterly in the Makushita division during this Kyushu Basho 2003, has announced the end of his career. Let us review almost fifteen years of his Sumo career, during which he has shown rare courage and love for his profession.
Sentoryu, his real name Henry Armstrong Miller, was born July 16th 1969 in St. Louis, Missouri, of a Japanese mother and an American father. He joined Tomozuna-beya, run by former Sekiwake Kaiki, in 1988, and made his official debut in July of the same year, some months after the debut of a very promising comrade: Koga, future Kaio.
And yet, the adventure lasted only two tournaments. After a 6-9 result in January of 1995, Sentoryu was demoted, and in spite of his relentless and repeated efforts, he got bogged down in Makushita and had to start from zero again. “The harder the fall”, says the proverb. It was rarely so true as in case of Sentoryu, having reached his goal only to lose it again, maybe for good. But the rikishi held on, no matter the cost, trying to forget the cruel disappointment.
Fiercely inspired, Sentoryu then realised the feat of winning seven victories in eight days, including notable victories against Terao and Aogiyama. He achieved kachi-koshi, and touched the Holy Grail: the Makuuchi division! After 72 Basho, in other words a career of twelve years, Sentoryu proved that bravery and denial can make you move mountains.
During that tournament he was injured, and dropped again. The injury was serious, but Sentoryu wasn’t awarded a kosho status and that made him lose his Sekitori status. He fell to the very depths of Makushita. After almost three years of Sekitori status, the fall again was very hard.
Sentoryu left his mark in Sumo in many ways. First of all, he was the first Black American to become a sekitori. But above all, throughout his career he exhibited admirable fighting spirit and will, so intensely and so well that the mere mention of his name sparks admiration in Sumo experts. The love of his profession, his relentless attempts at climbing back up despite all the disappointments and injuries, those are the main reasons that explain the fascination caused by this rikishi, this man.
During the ninth day of Kyushu Basho 2003, the former Maegashira 1 Aogiyama decided to end his career. Two days after Musashimaru, another Sumo figure quits!
Aogiyama Hideki was born on February 18th 1970 in Hikone, Shiga prefecture. He joined the prestigious Tokitsukaze-beya run by the former Ozeki Yutakayama, at a very young age. He had his dohyo debut in March 1985. Quite a promising rikishi, he reached the Juryo division for the first time in November 1991. In the space of four months he found himself back in Makushita, but returned to the Sekitori ranks for Natsu Basho 1992.
Aogiyama thus passed the bar, and settled in the top division for nearly five years. Still, he didn’t manage to win regularly against the best and so stayed in the area of the soft underbelly of hiramaku. His tsuki-based style showed its limits against experienced opponents who mastered a superior technique. Moreover, his meter and eighty-two and hundred forty-five kilos were nothing extraordinary for that time.
At the start of 2000, Aogiyama was overwhelmed by injuries and found himself back in Juryo in September of that year. Since then, in spite of three re-promotions to Makuuchi, he never managed to remain there. His last visit, this year (2003), was a sort of a swan’s song for this 33-year-old veteran. During the Kyushu Basho 2003, after eight losses in eight days, Aogiyama quit for good.
Download Le Monde du Sumo n°1 to get more information on this subject: