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Monday, Sept. 9, 2002

HE'S BACK!

Taka triumphs in return

Yokozuna Takanohana made a triumphant return to the raised ring Sunday, muscling out komusubi Takamisakari on the opening day of the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.

After missing the last seven tournaments because of his shaky right knee, Takanohana worked cautiously against the newly promoted komusubi but was never in trouble as he backed Takamisakari out of the ring at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan for the win.

The 30-year-old grand champion tore the ligaments in his right knee while winning his 22nd Emperor's Cup in May 2001 and has missed every tourney since as the rehabilitation process has taken longer than expected.

With Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako looking on, Takanohana appeared to favor the knee during the pre-match rituals, but showed his old style of controlled wrestling against Takamisakari.

Meanwhile, rival yokozuna Musashimaru and would-be grand champion Chiyotaikai were stung with opening-day upset losses.

Former ozeki Takanonami got behind the plodding Musashimaru in the day's final bout and pushed the yokozuna grand champion out.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai, the winner of the Nagoya tourney in July and a candidate for promotion to yokozuna, made a powerful charge at the face-off against Tosanoumi but was then slapped down when his follow-up thrusts failed to budge the sekiwake.

Asashoryu, Mongolia's first wrestler to reach ozeki, made his debut at sumo's second highest rank with an easy win over Shimotori, using belt control and a straight arm to the throat to shove out the No. 2 maegashira.

Ozeki Musoyama, returning to the ring after missing the Nagoya basho with a dislocated shoulder, bulldozed out top maegashira Tochinonada.

Kaio, facing the loss of the ozeki rank if he loses eight or more bouts this tourney, was pushed out by top maegashira Miyabiyama.



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