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Monday, Nov. 25, 2002

EMPEROR'S CUP

Asashoryu wraps up basho with 14th win

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) With his first Emperor's Cup already in the bag, Mongolian ozeki Asashoryu put the icing on the cake by blasting out ozeki rival Musoyama to notch his 14th win on the final day of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.

The saucy 22-year-old, who secured the title on Friday, shook off Musoyama's charge and finished off his opponent with one mighty shove to the delight of his parents, who had flown in from Ulan Bator for the match at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.

"To be able to lift the Emperor's Cup in front of my parents . . . well, I'm absolutely lost for words," said Asashoryu.

Asashoryu's Emperor's Cup victory comes just 24 tournaments after his sumo debut at the 1999 New Year basho, equaling Takanohana's record of the quickest-ever title since the present format of six meets a year was introduced in 1958.

"Of course my aim (since my debut) has been to win the title but I never really thought about it too much. I've always just tried to focus on each bout as it comes and do the best I can," said Asashoryu, who has won the most bouts in the top makuuchi division this year, 66 from the six tournaments.

With the title and 14 wins, Asashoryu has also boosted his chances of qualifying for promotion to sumo's ultimate rank of yokozuna after the New Year meet.

Fortunately for Asashoryu, his path to the title was eased in following the withdrawal of a number of top wrestlers.

Yokozuna Takanohana pulled out two days before the start of the meet and was followed by fellow grand champion Musashimaru, who exacerbated a wrist injury and pulled out after five days. Ozeki duo Kaio and Chiyotaikai were also forced to sit out with injuries.

Musoyama, who left the ring nursing his left shoulder, finished the tournament in a four-way tie for third at 10-5.

In other bouts, new komusubi Takanowaka gave the local fans plenty to cheer about as he finished runnerup on 11-4 after blasting out Elvis Presley lookalike Toki (9-6) and earned his first Fighting Spirit Prize.

Top-ranked maegashira Takanonami, who defeated a yokozuna and two ozeki en route to a 10-5 record, also received the Fighting Spirit Prize, as did Iwakiyama.

No. 11 Iwakiyama completed a fine debut in the makuuchi division by overpowering fellow rank-and-filer Aminishiki (9-6) for his 10th win, earning him his first Fighting Spirit Prize.

Ozeki Tochiazuma managed to scrape together an 8-7 record to avoid relegation from sumo's second-highest rank but closed on a losing note after being bundled out by sekiwake returnee Kotomitsuki (8-7).



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