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Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2002

Takanohana racks up eighth win at Autumn Grand Tournament

Yokozuna Takanohana cleared the first hurdle in his comeback to the dohyo on Tuesday when he claimed his eighth victory to secure a winning record at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.

The win kept Takanohana, who has missed a record seven straight tournaments with a career-threatening knee injury, in contention just one win behind fellow grand champion Musashimaru and newly promoted Mongolian ozeki Asashoryu with five days left in the tournament.

Takanohana (8-2) had to work hard but held his nerve against tricky moves by No. 4 maegashira Takanowaka (6-4), who mounted a brave challenge by drawing on a full arsenal of techniques at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

After a couple of exchanges of slaps and thrusts, as well as sudden, brief mid-ring belt-gripping tussles, Takanohana calmly shoved his opponent over the straw ridge in his 900th career bout in the top makuuchi division with a win.

Asashoryu (9-1) rebounded from Monday's defeat to preserve his share of the lead in a bout between in-form ozeki.

Asashoryu survived a fierce thrust to his neck at the face-off and then lunged onward until Chiyotaikai backpedaled with little resistance over the edge in an anti-climatic ending to one of the day's featured bouts.

Musashimaru (9-1) would not budge in the face of a challenge from No. 5 maegashira Tamanoshima (5-5), who circled around the ring trying to dodge devastating slaps but was eventually brought down by only the second real blow unleashed by the Samoan-born giant.

Kaio (8-2) escaped from the danger of being relegated from sumo's second highest rank, laboring to a much-needed eighth win with a powerful arm throw after being locked in a belt-gripping duel with ozeki rival Musoyama (7-3).

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