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Saturday, Nov. 16, 2002

Asashoryu rolls as Maru pulls out

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Ozeki Asashoryu looked every inch the immovable object as he gave veteran Takanonami a sumo lesson to score his sixth win and maintain sole possession of the lead at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Friday.

Chiyotaikai and Musoyama kept the pressure on the leader with convincing wins to stay in contention at 5-1 along with rank-and-filer Akinoshima, while Tochiazuma produced a much-needed win in his battle against relegation to make it a clean sweep for ozeki.

With injured yokozuna Musashimaru out of the picture following his withdrawal from the 15-day meet earlier in the day, Mongolian menace Asashoryu emerged as the early favorite among ozeki chasing the title with a cheeky victory at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.

Takanonami (4-2), who had shocked Musashimaru 24 hours earlier, outpsyched Asashoryu at the face-off and had the ozeki on the rails as he charged him up against the edge of the ring.

But the 22-year-old from Ulan Bator, fighting in only his second tournament as an ozeki, read Takanonami's game plan perfectly and countered to twist the No. 1 maegashira around and send him sprawling to the sandy surface with a clever backward leg trip.

Nagoya champion Chiyotaikai, another strong candidate for the title in the absence of Musashimaru, yokozuna Takanohana and ozeki Kaio, had far too much power for Mongolian komusubi Kyokutenho (3-3) and needed minimum effort in chalking up his fifth win.

Tamanoshima found Musoyama in a nasty mood and took a number of slaps upside the head from the ozeki, who followed up sharply by barging the winless maegashira over the straw bales.

Tochiazuma snapped a three-bout losing streak but was made to work hard before hauling down No. 2 maegashira Hokutoriki (1-5). Tochiazuma needs to win at least four more of his remaining nine bouts to stay at sumo's second highest rank.

Musashimaru, who withdrew from the meet after aggravating a wrist injury, forfeited his bout with komusubi Takanowaka.

No. 12 maegashira Tochisakae also pulled out after suffering an ankle injury.

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