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Tuesday, July 18, 2000

DAY 9

Akebono two ahead of pack

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Yokozuna Akebono dumped defending champion Dejima to a third loss at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament on Monday, gaining a measure of revenge for last year's loss to the ozeki in the championship playoff.

Akebono's ninth straight victory at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium also left the yokozuna with a two-win advantage over a thinning field in the chase for the Emperor's Cup as he seeks to end a three-year winless drought.

In key bouts, ozeki Chiyotaikai slapped down sekiwake Kaio for his seventh win while sekiwake Tochiazuma also notched win No. 7 by plowing out top maegashira Akinoshima.

No. 9 maegashira Chiyotenzan fell to makuuchi newcomer Aminishiki, leaving both wrestlers at 7-2, along with Mongolia's Kyokutenho and Takamisakari, who pulled down American Sentoryu.

In Monday's main event, Akebono muscled Dejima to the edge of the ring off the initial charge and appeared ready to dispose of his ozeki nemesis, when the defending champion got some leverage down low and walked the 230-kg yokozuna back across the ring.

Akebono kept his cool at the edge. Controlling the back of the ozeki's belt, he turned Dejima around and then made sure he landed on top as both wrestlers fell off the raised ring.

A year ago, Akebono lost to Dejima twice -- once in regulation and again in the championship playoff -- when it appeared that the Hawaiian-born yokozuna would finally win his first Emperor's Cup since the 1997 summer tourney. In a match pitting wrestlers with 6-2 records, Chiyotaikai stunned Kaio by slipping to the right at the face-off and sending the sekiwake sprawling on all fours at the center of the ring.

Tochiazuma, hoping to keep alive the string of first-time tournament champions this year, kept his head buried into the chest of Akinoshima (5-4) and bulldozed the top maegashira.



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