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Saturday, March 23, 2002

Musashimaru downs Kaio, moves one win away from title

OSAKA -- Yokozuna Musashimaru shoved down ozeki Kaio for his 12th win at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Friday and moved to within a win of taking home the championship hardware for the 10th time in his career.

Musashimaru's win at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium left Kaio with a 10-3 record and tied for second place with rank-and-file maegashira Aminishiki and Takanowaka, who are two paces behind the front-running grand champion.

In the day's much-anticipated main event, Musashimaru came out in a stance that stymied Kaio's attempts to secure control of the grand champion's sash on the right side.

When Kaio attempted to take control with his left hand, the burly yokozuna hit him with a couple of thrusts to the chest and then shoved him to all fours with a hard shove from the ozeki's right to improve to 12-1.

In other bouts, No. 4 maegashira Aminishiki kept his hopes for a berth in a championship playoff on Sunday by side-stepping the charge of Musoyama (8-5) and guiding the ozeki out of the ring by the belt for his 10th win.

No. 11 maegashira Takanowaka (10-3) also slipped into the three-way tie for second when he could not keep with the flurry of slaps and thrusts from sekiwake Asashoryu (9-4), who eventually shoved the Naruto stable grappler down.

In a rematch of the New Year tourney's championship pairing, ozeki Tochiazuma rocked Chiyotaikai with a strong charge at the face and then ran the Kokonoe stable wrestler out for a ninth win.

Chiyotaikai, who had reportedly strained his lower back before the spring meet, slumped to 7-6 and faces a losing record if he cannot muster a win over the weekend. He faces Musashimaru on Saturday.

Also, Kotomitsuki (7-6), who had been tabbed for possible promotion to ozeki before the tourney, edged closer to retaining his sekiwake rank by throwing down No. 5 maegashira Otsukasa (6-7) from behind.

Former ozeki Dejima (5-8) was quicker off the mark and whisked Kyokutenho (4-9) out of the ring before the second-ranked maegashira from Mongolia could even dig in for a defense.

Takanohana to miss tour

OSAKA -- Yokozuna Takanohana, who has missed the last five major sumo tournaments, will also skip the upcoming tour of the provinces scheduled to get under way March 31, sumo elder Futagoyama said Friday.

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