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Friday, Nov. 23, 2001

BARELY BREAKS SWEAT

Musashimaru maintains lead with easy win

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Grand champion Musashimaru showed no signs of stage fright and barely broke sweat in blasting out Mongolian komusubi Asashoryu on Thursday to keep sole possession of the lead in the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.

Sekiwake Tochiazuma, meanwhile, showed exactly why he is being touted as an ozeki candidate by producing a gritty win over veteran Takanonami to remain at the heels of the grand champion heading into the final three days at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.

Yokozuna Musashimaru, now 11-1 and aiming for his first Emperor's Cup of the year, never looked in any danger of surrendering his lead after shrugging off an early attack from Asashoryu (8-4) in the day's final bout.

Musashimaru quickly fended off the opening onslaught and needed minimum effort to extinguish the feisty Mongolian's fireworks, closing out the win with a powerful shove at the edge of the ring to record his third win out of the five meetings between the two men.

In a bout between wrestlers with 9-2 records, Tochiazuma somehow managed to stay upright as No. 10 maegashira Takanonami attempted to upend him with a backward leg trip and snatched a hard-earned victory with a beltless arm throw to improve to 10-2.

Also at sekiwake, Kotomitsuki (7-5), who had been touted as an ozeki hopeful after winning the autumn tourney in September, warmed up for his appointment with Musashimaru on Friday by providing the day's upset win after barging out ozeki Musoyama (8-4).

Kaio (7-5) salvaged some pride for the ozeki camp, however, and moved within one win of retaining his status at sumo's second-highest rank of ozeki by nonchalantly slamming down No. 4 maegashira Tochinonada (6-6).

In earlier bouts, Mongolia's No. 5 maegashira Kyokutenho (6-6) slipped on a banana skin to hand victory to Otsukasa (7-5) while ninth-ranked compatriot Kyokushuzan (8-4), who secured a winning record on Wednesday, was barged out by No. 1 maegashira Wakanosato (6-6).



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