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Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2002

Musashimaru express rolls on

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Yokozuna Musashimaru did his best juggernaut impression Tuesday, running over No. 3 maegashira Tamakasuga to preserve his flawless record on the third day of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.

But Kyushu's favorite son Kaio was stunned by maegashira top gun Tosanoumi and was joined by Tochiazuma and Musoyama on the ozeki scrap heap as all three suffered embarrassing losses at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.

Chiyotaikai rebounded from Monday's loss but Mongolian bully Asashoryu was the only ozeki to keep his slate clean with a third win to join Musashimaru and unbeaten rank-and-filers Tochinonada and Aminishiki in a four-way tie for the early lead.

A sore left wrist had hampered Musashimaru's preparations for the 15-day meet but the Samoan-born powerhouse showed no signs of discomfort as he gave his lower-ranked opponent a proper hiding to wrap up the day's action.

The grand champion, gunning for his fourth title of the year, smothered Tamakasuga at the center of the ring and showed strong lower-body technique and power as he bulldozed the winless maegashira over the straw bales with a pair of trademark shoves.

Musashimaru took his career total of wins in sumo's elite makuuchi division to 700. His opening-day victory Sunday moved him past yokozuna rival Takanohana into fourth on the all-time list.

With injury-plagued Takanohana pulling out at the eleventh hour due to a niggling knee injury, Kaio had been tipped as a possible threat to Musashimaru's campaign for a 13th Emperor's Cup.

But despite being roared on by a fiercely partisan crowd, Kaio looked anything but a title contender, losing the plot as he was outmaneuvered before being marched out sideways to a first loss by Tosanoumi (2-1).

Tochiazuma (1-2), who needs eight wins to keep his rank, was handed his second upset defeat by Takanowaka, who claimed his second ozeki scalp in as many days.

Asashoryu, wrestling in his second tournament as ozeki, managed a convincing force-out win over winless No. 2 maegashira Hokutoriki.

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