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Sunday, Nov. 25, 2001

Maru clinches 9th title

Yokozuna takes care of business in Kyushu

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Yokozuna Musashimaru finally ended a title drought dating back to autumn last year by toppling sekiwake Tochiazuma on Saturday to clinch his ninth Emperor's Cup on the penultimate day of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.

Needing to beat second-placed ozeki hopeful Tochiazuma to seal the championship with 13 wins and avoid the nightmare scenario of another playoff, the Samoan-born powerhouse never looked like cracking under pressure in the day's finale at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.

Musashimaru, who has twice been ousted in championship playoff meetings by fellow-yokozuna Takanohana earlier this year, wasted no time in getting to grips with Tochiazuma following some tense opening exchanges.

Calm and composed, the grand champion broke a prolonged deadlock and managed to put Tochiazuma on one leg before finishing the job by wrenching his opponent down onto the sandy surface for the win.

"There are no words to describe how happy I am today. I told myself just to go out and do my own thing here and it has paid off," Musashimaru said after the bout.

"I was not in good condition coming into this tournament but I kept plugging away at my own pace and gradually improved with every bout. It's good to finally win the championship," added the yokozuna.

Tochiazuma, who appeared to be limping back to the dressing room after his defeat, will likely be considered for promotion to ozeki if he can notch a 12th win over ozeki Musoyama on Sunday.

In the preceding bout, Kaio won a battle of ozeki to the delight of his hometown fans, showing tremendous balance as he tiptoed on the edge of the ring to floor Musoyama and leave both men with 9-5 records.

At sekiwake, autumn champion Kotomitsuki (8-6) made light work of sixth-ranked Daizen (6-8) to secure a winning record and keep alive his own future hopes of moving one rank up in sumo's premier league to ozeki.

Earlier, fiery komusubi Asashoryu (10-4) unleashed a windmill of slaps and thrusts to dispose of No. 2 maegashira Takanowaka (6-8) to move into double-digit wins and complete a clean sweep for the Mongolian wrestlers in the makuuchi division.

Fifth-ranked maegashira Kyokutenho (7-7) twisted down veteran Takanonami (9-5) while ninth-ranked Kyokushuzan shoved out Toki.

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