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Saturday, Nov. 24, 2001

Musashimaru closes in on title

Grand champion Musashimaru needed to do little more than flex his muscles to brush aside nemesis Kotomitsuki on Friday and move within striking distance of his first Emperor's Cup of the year at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.

Musashimaru moved to 12-1 in the 15-day tournament at Fukuoka Kokusai Center and can secure the championship on Saturday by winning what promises to be an intriguing showdown with sekiwake Tochiazuma, the only wrestler with a chance to derail the yokozuna express.

Musashimaru, who has so often in recent tournaments been the victim of shock defeats to sekiwake Kotomitsuki, clearly had one thing on his mind in the day's final bout -- payback.

The grizzly Samoan-born champ quickly smothered his opponent's feeble first charge and after spinning Kotomitsuki (7-6) around to the left, had the simple task of nudging the autumn tourney winner out of the ring from behind.

Sadly for Kotomitsuki, his hopes of promotion to ozeki are already dead and buried this time around.

In contrast, Tochiazuma took a huge step forward in his bid to move up to sumo's second-highest rank with a hard-fought win over Kotonowaka (6-7).

Kotonowaka proved to be a tough customer to deal with for Tochiazuma but the sekiwake showed dogged determination, countering with a lock on to the front of the fourth-ranked maegashira's belt before sending him backpedaling out of the ring for the win.

Meanwhile, local favorite and one-time yokozuna hopeful Kaio earned the biggest cheer of the day when he bulldozed Mongolian rank-and-filer Kyokutenho (6-7) over the straw ridge to secure the eighth win he needed to retain his ozeki status.

Fellow ozeki Musoyama wasted little time in showing komusubi Kaiho (5-8) the wrong side of the ring with a frontal push-out to post his ninth win of the meet.

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