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Saturday, March 24, 2001

Kaio tripped up, but retains lead

OSAKA -- Ozeki Kaio ran into a roadblock Friday and suffered his first loss of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, but still remained on course for a second Emperor's Cup after yokozuna Takanohana bit the dust in the day's final bout.

Coming after 12 straight wins, Kaio's first defeat had "Made in Samoa" written all over it as yokozuna Musashimaru powered in at the charge and quickly bulldozed out the Tomozuna stable wrestler to move to 10-3 and keep his own mathematical hopes for the title alive.

Takanohana blew his opportunity to draw level with Kaio as he surrendered the initiative to ozeki Musoyama, who pulled out a slick left-arm throw to leave both wrestlers on 11-2 with two days left at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium. Despite the loss, Takanohana, who won his 21st Emperor's Cup in the New Year tourney, will get another chance to move into a tie for the lead when he meets Kaio on Saturday. Takanohana holds a 25-12 record head-to-head with the ozeki.

Ozeki Dejima, who needs eight wins to avoid demotion after a losing record in January, edged to within one of his "magic number" by propelling sekiwake Wakanosato (6-7) onto the front row cushions in a scrappy bout.

However, Miyabiyama continued to look out of his depth at ozeki as he fell for a sidestep maneuver from No. 4 maegashira Takanowaka (7-6) and finished face-down in the dirt to add insult to a 6-7 record. Elsewhere, sekiwake Tochinonada overpowered fourth-ranked maegashira Tokitsuumi (6-7) to boost his record to 7-6, while No. 3 maegashira Kotomitsuki muscled out komusubi Tochiazuma (7-6) to post his eighth win and secure a promotion next time out.

No. 10 maegashira Tamanoshima mugged sixth-ranked Asashoryu (8-5) to improve to 10-3, while ninth-ranked maegashira Takatoriki (5-8) barreled out No. 1 maegashira Kyokutenho (3-10) to further dent Mongolian pride.

Meanwhile, fifth-ranked maegashira Kyokushuzan, the most experienced of the Mongolian trio, withdrew from the tourney with a 1-12 record after losing his battle to overcome an injury to his right calf.

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