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[Sumo History] 20 Years Ago Today - the 1981 Haru basho
(Note - the entry for the 1981 Hatsu basho can be found at:
Haru Basho, 1981
Kitanoumi Yokozuna Wajima
Wakanohana II Yokozuna
Chiyonofuji Ozeki Masuiyama
The 1981 Hatsu basho had not gone well for the old guard. New ozeki Chiyonofuji was now something of the toast of Tokyo, replacing old ozeki Takanohana I, who had retired to try his luck as an oyakata. The Haru basho would provide a chance to show the upstarts who was boss.
Unfortunately, things did not start well. On Day 3, sumo was rocked by the retirement announcement of yokozuna Wajima. For most of the mid-70s, Wajima and Kitanoumi dominated sumo maybe even more so than Takanohana and Akebono did in the mid-90s. It was a war that Wajima was likely to lose in the long run, being more than 4 years older than Kitanoumi, but he picked up 14 yushos in the process, including 6 of 9 between the Natsu 1973 and Aki 1974 bashos.
Things only got worse from there. Two days later, ozeki Masuiyama joined Wajima in retirement and two more days removed , yokozuna Wakanohana withdrew from the tournament. The fact that Takanosato (S-E) was undefeated over the first 7 days was little noted, and losses to Maegashira 5's Hokutenyu and Amanoyama on Days 8 and 9 put him in a 4-way tie at 7-2 with yokozuna Kitanoumi, Kotokaze (S-W) and Washuyama (M-10W).
Kotokaze was the first to drop off the pace, and by Day 12, Takanosato and Kitanoumi were co-leaders at 10-2, with Washuyama at 9-3 and tied with the rising Chiyonofuji. On Day 13, Kurama (M-1W) ended Washuyama's longshot dreams of an upset, and Chiyonofuji defeated Takanosato, allowing Kitanoumi to grab the sole lead with a win over Fujizakura (K-W). Kitanoumi put a stop to Takanosato's yusho hopes with a victory on Day 14, while Chiyonofuji remained a win off pace by beating Kotokaze. Kitanoumi avoided a playoff by defeating Chiyonofuji on Day 15 to win his 21st yusho. The attrition rate was high, but for the moment the old guard still held the fort.
Yusho: Kitanoumi 13-2 Runner-ups: Chiyonofuji, Ozutsu 11-4