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Monday, May 22, 2000

DAY 15

Kaio wins summer sumo with a little help from Takanohana

Komusubi Kaio powered to his first Emperor's Cup on Sunday, but only after Takanohana had cranked out yokozuna rival Akebono in the final bout to ruin the big Hawaiian's chances of forcing a playoff at the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament.

In front of a packed house at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan, Kaio burst out of the blocks against Tamakasuga (9-6) and, overcoming a momentary loss of balance, secured a right-hand belt grip and marched the fourth-ranked maegashira out to finish with a 14-1 record.

However, with Akebono also starting the day at 13-1, Kaio endured a nervous 30-minute wait for the yokozuna showdown, won convincingly by Takanohana, whose outside chance of lifting his 21st Emperor's Cup had gone up in smoke with Kaio's victory.

Despite a valiant effort from Akebono, Takanohana went to his bread-and-butter technique as he locked onto the front of his opponent's belt and, unfazed by an 80-kilogram weight disadvantage, bulldozed his opponent out to leave both men joint runners-up at 13-2.

Takanohana inched ahead in the head-to-head record of the two grand champions, posting his 21st win in 41 meetings.

"It was a bit of a blur when I realized I'd won, but I believed in myself this time and felt a lot sharper. I'm off tomorrow, so I'll have a couple of drinks tonight," said Kaio, who also won his ninth Outstanding Performance Award and fifth Fighting Spirit Prize.

Sekiwake Miyabiyama also picked up one of the three special prizes awarded to wrestlers of sumo's top makuuchi division on the final day of the tournament, in this case his third Fighting Spirit Prize, after ending at 11-4 in the 15-day meet.

However, news that the Japan Sumo Association had approved his promotion to ozeki will have meant more to the young Musashigawa stable wrestler, who bundled out Takanonami (6-9) -- already assured of losing his ozeki rank -- to finish on a winning note.

In other bouts, Chiyotaikai slapped down Dejima (8-7) in an ozeki battle to boost his record to 11-4, while No. 7 maegashira Akinoshima muscled out sekiwake Tochiazuma (9-6) to secure double digit wins and a healthy promotion next time.

Veteran komusubi Takatoriki, however, was shoved out by Mongolian No. 4 maegashira Kyokushuzan (5-10) and slumped to 2-13 to finish with the worst record in the makuuchi class after his surprise Emperor's Cup triumph at the spring tourney in March.

No. 12 maegashira Tochinohana overpowered juryo-division wrestler Takamisakari (11-4) to finish with a remarkable 12-3 record in his debut in sumo's top flight and pick up his first Technique Prize.

Mongolian No. 6 maegashira Kyokutenho, meanwhile, pulled down second-ranked Wakanoyama (5-10) to finish at 7-8.

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