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Sunday, Nov. 17, 2002

Mongolian magician Asashoryu keeps marching on

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Ozeki Asashoryu pulled another rabbit out of his hat to overcome No. 2 maegashira Miyabiyama for his seventh win on Saturday, preserving his spotless record heading into the second week of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.

Ozeki Musoyama and sumo's elder statesman Akinoshima both won comfortably to stay one win behind the cocky Mongolian but ozeki Chiyotaikai saw his title hopes dented after being handed a shock defeat to second-ranked maegashira Hokutoriki.

Ticket sales at Fukuoka Kokusai Center have plummeted following the withdrawal of yokozuna Musashimaru and Takanohana and local favorite Kaio, but Asashoryu did his best to entertain the crowd by producing yet another Houdini act in the day's finale.

Asashoryu, wrestling in only his second tournament at sumo's second-highest rank, looked odds-on favorite to become the second ozeki to fall victim to Miyabiyama after being quickly bulldozed up against the straw bales.

But the 22-year-old from Ulan Bator snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by dodging to his left and hauling down his opponent to stay on course for a second straight 8-0 start and his first Emperor's Cup.

With sumo's big guns dropping like flies, Nagoya champion Chiyotaikai (5-2) has been touted as a strong contender for his second Emperor's Cup of the year.

But the ozeki looked anything but championship material as he lost his footing -- and the plot -- and allowed Hokutoriki (2-5) to drag him down to the sandy surface immediately after the face-off.

In contrast, Musoyama had little trouble in seeing off Kyokutenho (3-4) as he ignored an elbow in the face and made mincemeat of the Mongolian komusubi.

No. 14 maegashira Akinoshima, at 35 the oldest wrestler in sumo's elite makuuchi division, stayed in contention after taking out fellow rank-and-filer Ushiomaru 3-4.

Ozeki Tochiazuma eased his relegation worries as he notched the third of eight wins needed to hang on to his rank by bumping out top-ranked maegashira Tosanoumi (3-4)

In other bouts, Wakanosato (2-5) picked up a much-needed win by forcing out winless maegashira Tamanoshima but fellow sekiwake Kotomitsuki slipped to 3-4 after going down to veteran Takanonami (5-2).

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