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Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2003

Takanohana drops out with sore shoulder

Ozeki Asashoryu remained unstoppable Tuesday in his quest for the ultimate rank of grand champion three days into the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, which lost yokozuna Takanohana to an injury.

Asashoryu had to work harder than on the previous two days but took full advantage of the bum ankle of top-ranked maegashira Miyabiyama (1-2), whose near-heroics against Takanohana on Monday appeared to have cost him dearly.

Miyabiyama caught Asashoryu off-balance early on with a series of shoves but paid the price for his exuberance as the fiery Mongolian easily sneaked inside and then toppled him from behind.

Miyabiyama, a former ozeki, said he heavily sprained his right ankle when he threw Takanohana in Monday's bout and aggravated the injury in the middle of his meeting with Asashoryu. He needed help from Asashoryu to stand up in the ring and then from his stablemates along the way to the dressing room.

Asashoryu, who is expected to earn promotion to yokozuna with his second Emperor's Cup and at least 13 wins, is in a tie for the lead with three unbeaten rank-and-filers and will now avoid a meeting with yokozuna for the second straight tournament.

Earlier in the day, Takanohana withdrew from the 15-day meet at Ryogoku Kokugikan after damaging ligaments in his left shoulder in a controversial bout against Miyabiyama, whose bold leg-sweeping throw sent the grand champion spinning down to the dohyo clay on his back.

As Miyabiyama himself fell simultaneously, the ringside judges called for a rematch which was won by Takanohana with ease.

But the damage from the throw brought an end to Takanohana's latest comeback bid from a career-threatening knee injury, leaving his official record at 2-1 including Tuesday's default.

Musashimaru, the other yokozuna, pulled out early in the November meet and opted to sit out the whole tournament this month.

In other action, Musoyama (1-2) lost his patience in a high-octane exchange of power in a meeting with No. 1 maegashira Tosanoumi (2-1), who capitalized on the ozeki's botched attempt to yank him down to notch an anti-climactic force-out win.

Fellow-ozeki Tochiazuma lost his third straight bout as his lack of firepower in a belt-gripping position eventually allowed komusubi Wakanosato (2-1) to thrust him out of the ring.

Crowd favorite Takamisakari proved he can do more than just bang his chest in exaggerated rage in a pre-bout ritual as the ninth-ranked maegashira kept his unbeaten record by shoving out No. 6 Hokutoriki (1-2).

South Korean grappler Kasugao, a 14th-ranked maegashira making his debut in the makuuchi division, was thrown down by No. 15 Tamarikido for his first defeat in sumo's top flight.

Both wrestlers now have 2-1 records.

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