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Saturday, July 22, 2000

Akebono clinches 10th title

NAGOYA (Kyodo)Yokozuna Akebono forced out ozeki Miyabiyama on Friday to assure his victory in the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament, knocking a huge monkey off his back with his first championship in more than three years and his 10th overall.

Akebono notched his 13th straight win without a loss at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium to take an insurmountable three-win advantage over ozeki Chiyotaikai and sekiwake Tochiazuma into the final two days of the 15-day tourney.

The championship is the 10th of Akebono's 22-year sumo career and first since May 1997. It is also his first title since missing three straight tournaments from November 1998 to March 1999, when sumo experts were speculating about his possible retirement.

With bouts remaining against Chiyotaikai on Saturday and fellow grand champion Musashimaru on the final day, Akebono appeared eager to wrap up the championship against Miyabiyama and deny any wrestler the hope of forcing a playoff on the final day.

Akebono held the early advantage against Miyabiyama at the faceoff, but stumbled when the ozeki tried to pull him down to the left. Catching his balance, the yokozuna then withstood the ozeki's attempt to blast him out of the ring.

Akebono regained control and shoved Miyabiyama out of the ring for the win and the championship. The newly promoted ozeki, who suffered his eighth loss, meanwhile, will need to post eight or more wins in September to hold onto sumo's second highest rank.

After the championship was decided, Chiyotaikai (10-3) rammed out Musashimaru (9-4) in an anti-climatic final bout.

Sekiwake Tochiazuma (10-3) twisted down makuuchi newcomer Takamisakari (9-4) by the neck for his 10th win.

In other bouts, No. 5 maegashira Hayateumi (7-6) pulled down ozeki Dejima by the belt and saddled the defending champion to a fourth loss.

Sekiwake Kaio (9-4) pitched over Akinoshima (6-7) with an arm throw to keep alive his chances of being considered for promotion to ozeki.

Mongolia's Kyokutenho pulled down Tochinohana (5-8) off the jumpoff for his ninth win, but stablemate and countryman Kyokushuzan fell to his ninth loss, getting tossed out of the ring by Takanowaka (5-8).

In a showdown between 6-6 wrestlers, American Sentoryu snapped down Kaiho, leaving the St. Louis, Mo. native one win shy of promotion.



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