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Saturday, Nov. 18, 2000

Akebono stays in driver's seat

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Yokozuna Akebono had little trouble with hometown favorite Kaio on Friday, quickly bundling the ozeki out to preserve his lead at 12-1 with two days remaining at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.

Kaio, wrestling for the first time as ozeki on home turf, froze at the faceoff, and Akebono needed no second invitation to catapult his opponent out of the ring to his third loss of the 15-day meet at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.

Meanwhile, defending Kyushu champion Musashimaru rewrote the book on winning ugly, using his 230-kg bulk to run over Takanohana in the day's final bout as the two grand champions battled to stay one step behind Akebono in the title race.

The fat lady was on cue when Takanohana finally got a left-hand belt grip on Musashimaru, but the Samoan-born giant squirmed free and flattened his opponent to improve to 11-2, while Takanohana, at 10-3, now needs a miracle to win his 21st Emperor's Cup.

Akebono can wrap up his 11th championship by defeating Takanohana on Saturday, while Musashimaru will bang bodies with Kaio on Day 14 as he hopes to take the title race down to the wire.

Tournament surprise Kotomitsuki continued to defy the odds as he bulldozed ozeki Dejima (8-5) onto the ringside cushions to boost his record to 11-2. The No. 9 maegashira will face another Musashigawa stable ozeki, Miyabiyama, on Saturday.

Miyabiyama ended ozeki Chiyotaikai's slim title hopes, quickly pulling him off balance and down to the dirt to leave both wrestlers at 9-4, while Musoyama secured his majority of wins as the reinstated ozeki made a pancake of komusubi Tochinohana (3-10).

In other bouts, komusubi Wakanosato improved to 7-6 by throwing down No. 7 maegashira Tochinonada (8-5) after a center-ring slugfest, while sekiwake Takanonami levered out Mongolian No. 3 maegashira Kyokushuzan to leave both men at 4-9 and facing demotion.

Another Mongolian, Kyokutenho, slapped down Tochisakae in a matchup of sixth-ranked maegashira, putting both wrestlers on a precarious 6-7 with two days left.

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