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栃乃洋

The Giant Killer

This sumo wrestler is nick named "The Giant Killer" for a very good reason: he has a way of taking on and defeating strong, top ranked wrestlers. He has done so for years, but still he is only ranked in the middle of makuuchi (the top division of sumo). The reason for this lies in his tendency of losing too many of his - supposedly - less challenging bouts.

Tochinonada was born on February 26, 1974, in Ishikawa prefecture in Japan, as Taiichi Goto. As most sumo wrestlers he took up sumo at an early age in elementary school. During his years in college he became College Yokozuna; no small feat considering the competition (eg. Dejima and Tokitsuumi, both accomplished wrestlers).

In July, 1996, Taiichi entered the makushita division1, but after only two tournaments he was promoted to juryo, the second highest division (and the first salaried one). In the beginning he was competing under his own surname, Goto, but by the time he entered juryo he had taken the shikona (ring name) Tochinonada (lit. "Horse Chestnut from the Sea"). He defeated just about everyone he met, and three basho (tournaments) later, in May 1997, he made it to makuuchi.

He sped through makuuchi, and before the end of 1997 he was made komusubi2. His first basho as komusubi was not great; he suffered makekoshi (fewer wins than losses3), and was demoted in time for the next basho. This is not unusual, as it is almost customary for a newly promoted wrestler to do less good during his first basho wearing a new title. For the next three years he was rather stable, ranking between maegashira 4 and maegashira 1.

In March, 2001 he made a comeback. He got promoted to sekiwake - only to be demoted four months (two tournaments) later. Over the next almost four years Tochinonada was made komusubi four times. Always good enough to get up there, to sanyaku, but not good enough to stay there. After an injury in July, 2005, he had to withdraw, and the following couple of basho were not good, to put it mildly. Within a year he had fallen out of makuuchi, and spent one whole year in juryo before he managed to come back to the top division again. But, much to my delight, he is now back on track.

Tochinonada has won the following special prizes:

  • 3 Shukun sho (Outstanding performance award).
  • 2 Kanto sho (Fighting Spirit Award).
  • 1 Gino sho (Technique Award).
  • 11 Kinboshi (Gold Star, for when a maegashira defeats a yokozuna).
At the moment (after the July basho 2006) he is ranked in the middle of makuuchi, and I have no doubt that this accomplished wrestler will be around for quite a few years yet.
  1. The divisions are, from the bottom up: maezumo (not included in the banzuke), jonokuchi, jonidan, sandanme, makushita, juryo, and makuuchi. College wrestlers are able to skip the lowest divisions, and go directly to makushita.
  2. The ranks in the top division, makuuchi, are, from the bottom up: maegashira, komusubi, sekiwake, ozeki and yokozuna.
  3. A basho lasts 15 days, and each wrestler fights once a day. Thus the pivot point is 8. 8 or more wins will mean promotion (kashikochi); 8 or more losses will mean demotion (makekochi).

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