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Friday, March 23, 2001

Kaio moves to 12-0

OSAKA -- Ozeki Kaio cruised to his 12th straight win over title pretender Tamanoshima on Thursday to hold onto the lead at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament and edge one step closer to his second Emperor's Cup.

Yokozuna Takanohana, meanwhile, kept the pressure on Kaio, one step back at 11-1, with a hard-fought win over ozeki Miyabiyama to set up a suspenseful final three days at Osaka Prefectural Gym.

Kaio never looked in any trouble in his bout with Tamanoshima (9-3) and after swinging his opponent around the ring, effectively ended the 10th-ranked maegashira's title hopes by plowing him over the straw bales for the win.

New Year tourney champion Takanohana showed the kind of form that has won him 21 Emperors Cups by soaking up a series of thrusts before entertaining Miyabiyama (6-6) with a mid-ring tango and then bulldozing the ozeki out of the ring.

Grand champion Musashimaru (9-3), however, saw his title hopes all but evaporate as new komusubi Tochiazuma (7-5) provided an upset in the day's final bout, dragging the Samoan-born powerhouse to the ring's surface.

Ozeki Musoyama got a fright after being pulled off balance by Takanowaka (6-6) but quickly recovered to blast the fourth-ranked maegashira out of the ring and keep alive his slim championship hopes at 10-2.

Musashigawa stablemate Dejima continued his ride on the won-lost roller-coaster as the ozeki stumbled again by allowing No. 4 maegashira Tokitsuumi to shove him out to a second straight loss, leaving both men with a 6-6 mark.

In earlier bouts, Mongolian No. 6 maegashira Asashoryu continued to impress in only his second tourney in sumo's elite makuuchi division and guaranteed himself promotion in May by bumping 12th-ranked Otsukasa (7-5) for an 8-4 record.

Things went from bad to worse, however, for struggling senior compatriots Kyokutenho and Kyokushuzan who are already headed south for the summer basho.

Top-ranked maegashira Kyokutenho tumbled to 3-9 after being forced out by third-ranked Kotomitsuki (7-5) while fifth-ranked Kyokushuzan put up little resistance against 14th-ranked Daishi (4-8), who handed the former komusubi his 11th defeat of the tourney.

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