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Sunday, Nov. 19, 2000

Akebono topples Taka

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Akebono backed out fellow yokozuna Takanohana in Saturday's final bout of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament to improve to 13-1 in the 15-day tourney, after watching ozeki Kaio upset Kyushu defending champion and title hopeful Musashimaru.

No. 9 maegashira Kotomitsuki tripped up ozeki Miyabiyama for his 12th win at Fukuoka Kokusai Center to remain the only wrestler with a chance to derail the Akebono championship express.

Akebono can win his second championship of the year and 11th overall with a win over Musashimaru on Sunday or if Kotomitsuki loses to ozeki Musoyama.

A win by the Sadogatake stable upstart who won the Juryo division title in September and a loss by Akebono would leave both wrestlers at 13-2 with the championship to be decided in a winner-take-all playoff.

In Saturday's key bout, Kotomitsuki (12-2) caught Miyabiyama (9-5) leaning too heavily on him during a stalemate at center ring, twisting the ozeki to the dirt with an inside thigh trap on the right side and a quick tug on the left.

Nagoya champion Akebono showed some fancy footwork in his bout with Takanohana (10-4), skipping to the right at the faceoff in a move worthy of a lightweight and then powering back into his stunned opponent to drive him out of the ring.

Needing a win to keep alive his own title hopes, Musashimaru had Kaio backpedaling throughout their match and appeared ready to knock the ozeki out of the ring for his 12th win.

Instead, Kaio spun under the yokozuna's right arm as they tumbled out of the ring and Musashimaru put his hand down first to leave both wrestlers at 11-3.

Earlier, Musoyama backed Chiyotaikai over the straw ridge to saddle the Oita Prefecture native with his fourth straight loss while leaving both ozeki at 9-5.

Komusubi Wakanosato (8-6), meanwhile, muscled out ozeki Dejima (8-6) for his seventh win in a row to secure a winning record in his debut at sumo's upper ranks and a likely promotion to sekiwake for the New Year tournament in January.

Kyokutenho, a No. 6 maegashira from Mongolia, slapped down 11th-ranked Asanowaka (5-9) for his seventh win and a chance to move up the rankings for January with a win Sunday.

Mongolian compatriot Kyokushuzan was pulled down to his 10th loss by fourth-ranked Tosanoumi (7-7) and will be taking a hefty slide down the rankings sheet from his current perch at No. 3 maegashira.

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