Stablemaster Oguruma (former ozeki Kotokaze) said: “Takayasu turned in an impressive practice with Hakuho. I think there’s a possibility [the sekiwake] will be promoted.”

Takayasu’s physique and shoving technique, acquired through hard training with senior stable mate Kisenosato, have further strengthened. Takayasu earned 11 wins as a komusubi at the New Year tournament and 12 wins as a sekiwake at the spring tournament, turning in performances on par with yokozuna and ozeki. Earning a total of 33 wins over three straight tournaments — a requirement for promotion to ozeki — is within his reach.

The biggest challenge Takayasu faces is overcoming his inconsistency in bouts. Japan Sumo Association Chairman Hakkaku, the former yokozuna Hokutoumi, said, “The sekiwake is competitive when he follows his winning formula, but he still has many weak points.”

Takayasu said his role as flag bearer in Kisenosato’s victory parade in the previous tournament sparked his desire to become the next champion. The sekiwake, who once attracted publicity for becoming the first ranked wrestler born in the Heisei era, is now 27.

“The two weeks before tournaments are very important for me,” he said. He will enter the sumo ring at the summer tournament thoroughly prepared.