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Sunday, March 26, 2000

Triumph still within grasp for Takatoriki

Yokozuna Akebono turned the tables on nemesis Takatoriki on Saturday, denying the No. 14 maegashira a chance to win his first-ever Emperor's Cup at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

Akebono's one-sided victory at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium saddled Takatoriki with his second loss of the 15-day tourney and left open the possibility of a five-way playoff for the championship Sunday.

Takatoriki, 32, wrestling at the makuuchi division's lowest rank, can still claim the first-ever Emperor's Cup of his 17-year sumo career with a win over up-and-coming Miyabiyama on Sunday.

A loss, however, will leave the former sekiwake to scramble in a playoff with, at least, Miyabiyama and the winner of the Akebono-Takanohana grand champion finale.

Yokozuna Musashimaru and sekiwake Musoyama, each at 11-3, also have chances to make the playoff with wins Sunday and extend the Musashigawa stable's current string of championships to seven.

In Saturday's featured bout, Hawaiian-born Akebono (11-3) wasted little time against the wrestler who had spoiled a number of the yokozuna's own runs for the Emperor's Cup, erupting out of his crouch and knocking Takatoriki (12-2) out of the ring.

Musashimaru (11-3), the defending champion in Osaka, had a chance to pull even for the lead with a win over Takanohana (11-3) and had the rival grand champion dug in against the straw in the day's final bout.

He got over-extended trying to drive his opponent out, however, and slipped to the ring's surface as Takanohana escaped to the right.

Musoyama, meanwhile, pushed No. 6 maegashira Tochinonada (8-6) down from behind to keep alive his championship hopes while virtually assuring the New Year tournament winner promotion to ozeki.

The Musashigawa stable's second sekiwake, Miyabiyama, threw down fifth-ranked Chiyotenzan (4-10) for his 11th win, prompting sumo commentators to begin talking about possible ozeki promotion for the sumo phenom after the summer tourney in May.

The stable's current ozeki Dejima shoved No. 7 maegashira Toki (6-8) out of the ring for his 10th win.

In an all-ozeki encounter, Takanonami pushed out Chiyotaikai, leaving both wrestlers with unseemly records of 7-7 for sumo's second-highest rank.

Mongolia's Kyokushuzan (5-9) and Kyokutenho (3-11) were both caught flat-footed at the charge of their bouts and walked out by komusubi wrestlers Tosanoumi (8-6) and Kaio (7-7).

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