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Monday, Sept. 10, 2001

DAY 1

Yokozuna hopeful Kaio slips up on 1st day of autumn sumo

Ozeki Kaio saw his fresh challenge to reach sumo's elite rank of yokozuna quickly turn sour Sunday when he slipped to a shock defeat to komusubi Wakanosato on the opening day of the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.

But lone grand champion Musashimaru, who appears to be Kaio's main obstacle in his push to the top, and ozeki rival Chiyotaikai both kicked off the 15-day tournament with comfortable wins at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Despite coming off an impressive victory at the Nagoya tourney in July, which once more put the Tomozuna stable grappler in line for sumo's ultimate prize, Kaio looked less than convincing in the day's penultimate bout.

Wakanosato, harboring his own hopes of climbing the next rung on the sanyaku ladder after going 9-6 in Nagoya, smothered Kaio's opening charge and broke a mid-ring stalemate by twisting his opponent to the right and out of the ring for the upset win.

"This is a dream start (to the tournament). I can't remember much about the fight, but I've awarded myself full marks for the performance anyway," a grinning Wakanosato said in a post-match interview.

Meanwhile, Musashimaru showed no signs of falling to the kind of upset that has dented the Samoan-born giant's title challenges since his most recent victory here last year, wrenching new komusubi Tamanoshima to the dirt in a one-sided match.

It was a day of mixed fortunes in the ozeki camp as Chiyotaikai and Musoyama both got off to winning starts while perennial relegation candidate Miyabiyama predictably fluffed his lines in his appointment with renowned giant-killer Kotomitsuki.

Chiyotaikai had little troubled in making mincemeat of No. 1 maegashira Kotonowaka while in contrast, Musoyama mustered just enough firepower to gun down Mongolia's top-ranked maegashira Asashoryu in an explosive battle to record a face-saving win.

Miyabiyama, however, quickly took control of his encounter with No. 2 maegashira Kotomitsuki only to inexplicably allow the former sekiwake to counter a two-handed throat clamp and barge the bumbling ozeki to defeat.

Similarly, sekiwake Dejima's attempt to make an immediate return to ozeki took an early blow when the Musashigawa grappler lost his footing after the charge before being dragged down by third-ranked maegashira Tosanoumi.

Dejima, who was forced to withdraw from the Nagoya tourney with a viral infection, needs 10 wins or more to rejoin stablemates Miyabiyama and Musoyama back in the ozeki ranks.

In the lower echelons of sumo's premier league, Mongolian No. 8 maegashira Kyokutenho got off on the right foot and wasted no time in pulling down seventh-ranked Kotoryu for an easy opening-day win.

But compatriot and former komusubi Kyokushuzan, wrestling as a No. 6 maegashira, appeared to have left his bag of tricks at home and was quickly bundled out to loss No. 1 by fifth-ranked Tochinonada.



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