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Monday, Jan. 14, 2002

DAY 1

Musashimaru shocked on opening day of New Year sumo

Yokozuna Musashimaru got off on the wrong foot Sunday as the Samoan-born favorite was handed a shock defeat by komusubi Wakanosato on the opening day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

Sekiwake Kotomitsuki provided further drama with an upset win over ozeki Musoyama, while local favorite Tochiazuma made a triumphant start on his debut at ozeki by hauling down Akinoshima to the delight of a full house at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Grand champion Musashimaru, heavily favored to claim back-to-back titles in the absence of fellow yokozuna Takanohana, should have won what appeared to be a formality in the day's final bout. But Wakanosato had other ideas.

Taking Musashimaru's thrusts in his stride, Wakanosato launched a counterattack of his own, and after locking onto the right side of his opponent's belt, he managed to shove the yokozuna to the ring's edge before tipping him over the straw bales for the win.

Earlier, Kotomitsuki made the perfect start in his bid to move one rung up sumo's ladder to ozeki, as the feisty Sadogatake stable grappler tossed aside Musoyama like a rag doll to open his campaign in style for the 15-day tourney.

Autumn tourney winner Kotomitsuki needs 11 wins here to meet the Japan Sumo Association requirement for ozeki promotion, as he seeks to join Tochiazuma, veteran duo Kaio and Musoyama and relegation-threatened Chiyotaikai in sumo's second-highest rank.

Tochiazuma, aiming to become the first wrestler in 33 years to win the Emperor's Cup as an ozeki debutante, barely had to lift a finger as he effortlessly hauled down top-ranked maegashira Akinoshima within seconds of the tachiai.

And it was almost as easy for Chiyotaikai, who made an impressive return to the ring as he sent the Mongolian No.1 maegashira Kyokushuzan head over heels for the first of the eight wins he needs to stay at ozeki.

Elsewhere, Kaio managed to survive an early scare in his bout with Mongolian Kyokutenho and emerged victorious after leaving the komusubi on his backside and inflicting an opening-day loss.

Kyokutenho's higher-ranked compatriot Asashoryu, back at sekiwake after going 10-5 in November, had a better day and made mincemeat out of second-ranked Tamanoshima before cheekily nudging him out of the ring with his shoulder for win No. 1.

In the day's opening bout, Makuuchi division returnee Sentoryu of the United States, a No. 15 maegashira, started on a winning note by pulling down juryo division wrestler Kitazakura.



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