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Monday, Nov. 20, 2000

Akebono captures Kyushu sumo with win over Musashimaru

Akebono took care of business Sunday as he muscled out fellow yokozuna Musashimaru to win the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament, disappointing neutrals who wanted to see a championship playoff.

There was an element of anti-climax at Fukuoka Kokusai Center as Akebono dominated the final bout to finish with a 14-1 record after watching tournament surprise Kotomitsuki post his 13th win to set up a possible playoff, provided Musashimaru could overcome the leader.

Akebono was settled things early, however, as he immediately barged Musashimaru backwards at the face-off. After some dogged resistance at the edge, the Hawaiian-born Akebono prevailed to collect his second Emperor's Cup this year and the 11th of his career.

"This is a sweet moment that makes me glad I worked so hard to come back after a tough year. I want to show the new, young wrestlers who's boss next year," said Akebono, who was making his first appearance at the Kyushu tournament in four years.

No. 9 maegashira Kotomitsuki, who won the second-tier juryo division title at the autumn tourney, came close to completing a remarkable return to the elite makuuchi class, but there was no fairy tale ending, despite a final-day win against ozeki Musoyama (9-6).

Kotomitsuki quickly secured a strong right-hand belt grip and turned Musoyama completely around twice before catapulting him onto the ringside cushions from behind. A huge ovation erupted from the packed Fukuoka crowd.

Kotomitsuki took home the Outstanding Performance Award, the Technique Prize and the Fighting Spirit Prize -- all three special prizes awarded by the Japan Sumo Association to makuuchi wrestlers at the end of each meet.

Yokozuna Takanohana bounced back from back-to-back losses to his two grand champion rivals by closing down the attack of hometown favorite Kaio and bulldozing the ozeki out to leave both wrestlers at 11-4 for the 15-day meet.

Chiyotaikai charged hard into Dejima in a battle of ozeki, but Chiyo failed to finish the job, and his forward momentum took him over the straw ridge, giving both men a final 9-6 record.

Takanonami, a former ozeki now certain to lose his sekiwake rank, gave a lesson to ozeki Miyabiyama (9-6), cleverly twisting down the Musashigawa stable youngster to close out the tournament with his fifth straight win and finish at 6-9.

Wakanosato, who earned his first Outstanding Performance Award after recovering from a 1-6 start, completed a successful debut at komusubi by squashing ninth-ranked maegashira Kaiho (8-7) for his eighth straight win and finished at 9-6.

Mongolia's No. 6 maegashira Kyokutenho will slip down the rankings next time out after being bundled out by seventh-ranked Tochinonada, who posted his 10th win of the tourney and can look forward to a hefty promotion.

Already assured of a demotion, Mongolian No. 3 maegashira Kyokushuzan ended the meet with a whimper as he was tripped up by second-ranked Hamanoshima, leaving both wrestlers at 4-11.

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