Ozeki Kirishima Determined to Earn Promotion to Yokozuna on 1st Try

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ozeki Kirishima speaks at a press conference on Monday.

Ozeki Kirishima will get his first chance for promotion at the upcoming New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, and the Mongolian star is determined to seize the opportunity.

“Making [yokozuma] has been my goal since I entered [the sumo world],” Kirishima said at a press conference Monday following the release of the new rankings. “I want to use my first chance and get it done in one shot.”

The 27-year-old Kirishima won his second career title at the Kyushu tournament in November, putting him in position for promotion to the highest rank with a strong showing at the New Year tourney starting Jan. 14 at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan. The criteria for promotion to yokozuna is a tournament title “or the equivalent,” which is always up for interpretation.

One unknown heading into the tournament will be the condition of the lone yokozuna, Terunofuji, who is slated to return after missing the last three tournaments due to a back injury.

During the recent regional tour conducted between grand tournaments that ended Sunday, Kirishima himself skipped several morning practices at the beginning. He said his condition did not improve very much and he dropped some weight.

“My body condition and the amount of practices were not enough,” he said looking back, adding that he will step up his training regimen.

Kirishima and his Tokitsukaze stablemates are scheduled to have joint training sessions with linked stables at the beginning of next year.

“I am a bit concerned about the joint training,” he said. “I want to show the power of an ozeki.”

Asked what his main focus will be on regarding promotion to yokozuna, Kirishima replied, “The most important thing is mental attitude. I don’t want to lose mentally. I just have to go into the training hall and do what needs to be done.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Onosato, left, and stablemaster Nishonoseki hold the rankings for the New Year tournament, where he will make his makuuchi division debut.

Meanwhile, maegashira No. 15 Onosato, one of two newcomers to the uppermost makuuchi division who made it in a speed four tournaments, was in high spirits.

“I am happy to see my name written so big,” he said while pointing to his name on a copy of the rankings.

Heading into his debut, he said, “I’ll be able to stand on the stage I used to dream of before I joined the sumo world. I’ve aimed at moving up the ranks as quickly as possible. Now I don’t want to think about the future, but just focus on the opponent in front of me.”

Onosato is the first makuuchi wrestler under stablemaster Nishonoseki, former yokozuna Kisenosato, since the establishment of his stable. The mentor has high hopes, saying: “This is not the end, but just a starting point. He can aim for higher ranks.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Shimazuumi points to his name on the rankings.

The other debutant, No. 17 maegashira Shimazuumi, took a very different path. His promotion to the top division comes nearly 12 years after his first appearance in the ring at the Spring tournament in 2012.

“With steady efforts, I could rise to this ranking. That makes me happy,” the Kagoshima Prefecture native said.

Stablemaster, Hanaregoma, former sekiwake Tamanoshima, lauds Shimazuumi for his work ethic. “He always concentrates on his drills and is a role model for younger wrestlers,” Hanaregoma said.

Shimazuumi’s most effective technique is to use a deep underarm grip that prevents the opponent from grabbing his belt, and then forcing him out of the ring with a sudden charge.

“I want to aim for the Technique Prize,” he said.