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Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2002

New champ Tochiazuma has good night

Newly promoted ozeki Tochiazuma had no trouble sleeping Sunday night after winning his first Emperor's Cup at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, the Tamanoi stable grappler told reporters Monday.

Tochiazuma downed fellow ozeki Chiyotaikai in a championship playoff at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan on Sunday to become only the third wrestler since World War II to win the Emperor's Cup in his debut at sumo's second highest rank.

"It's hard to believe that I actually won the championship. I'm so glad," Tochiazuma said at a press conference, adding that he received a call from Hanshin Tigers manager Senichi Hoshino before going to bed at around 2 a.m.

"I was completely absorbed (at the victory) and didn't know what was happening. We're not allowed to pump up our fists, but it just came naturally," said Tochiazuma, who became the first wrestler in 61 years to win in each of sumo's six divisions.

Asked about trying to secure promotion to yokozuna with another championship run in March, Tochiazuma remarked, "I haven't given it any thought. I will continue to practice the way I always have, correct some of my mistakes and then see what happens."

On Sunday, Tochiazuma weathered a storm of slaps and thrusts from Chiyotaikai to force out his opponent, leaving the two ozeki tied at 13-2 for the tournament championship.

Tochiazuma then pulled down Chiyotaikai face-off in the playoff for the title.

Tochiazuma follows in the footsteps of his father and stablemaster Tamanoi, who was also known as Tochiazuma and reached the rank of sekiwake. The elder Tochiazuma won the New Year tournament with an 11-4 record in 1972.



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