Kirishima Captures 2nd Title with Victory at Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ozeki Kirishima receives the Emperor’s Cup from Japan Sumo Association Chairman Hakkaku at the Fukuoka Kokusai Center on Sunday.

Ozeki Kirishima finally lived up to his name, and even surpassed it in a way.

Kirishima captured his second career title and first since assuming his current ring name, taking home the Emperor’s Cup from the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday in Fukuoka.

Kirishima defeated fellow ozeki Takakeisho in the final match of the tournament, but the Mongolian had already clinched the title when his closest competitor, No. 8 maegashira Atamifuji, lost two matches earlier to sekiwake Kotonowaka.

Kirishima finished 13-2, while Atamifuji and Kotonowaka tied for runner-up at 11-4 with No. 14 maegashira Ichiyamamoto. The latter three all shared the Fighting Spirit Prize.

“I was determined to fight hard to the end,” said Kirishima, who also secured the honor of most total wins in the year with 62.

Kirishima won his first title as sekiwake Kiribayama at the Spring tournament in March this year. After earning promotion to ozeki after the next tournament, he took the name Kirishima, which was the ring name of his stablemaster Michinoku, who also reached the rank of ozeki but won just one tournament in his career.

“I received a wonderful name in ‘Kirishima’ and my stablemaster and many others wished me well,” he said.

But the new Kirishima got off to a rough start when he missed three days of the Nagoya tournament in July due to injury and finished 6-7, then went 9-6 at the Autumn tourney in September just to save his rank.

The Kyushu tournament title and 13-2 record now puts Kirishima into position to earn promotion to yokozuna with a victory or “an equivalent record” in the words of the Japan Sumo Association at the New Year tournament in January. With the lone current yokozuna, Terunofuji, missing a third straight tournament, the JSA might show some leeway in boosting Kirishima to the top rank.

“I will train hard as I always do and it will all come down to training,” Kirishima said.

On Sunday, Kirishima capped the tournament by sidestepping Takakeisho and slapping him down to his sixth defeat. It was a similar move to that used by Kotonowaka to dispatch Atamifuji.