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Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2003

Kaiho hands Asashoryu first loss of basho

High-flying sumo star Asashoryu failed to impress the sumo world on a day when yokozuna Takanohana retired, falling to his first loss at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament at the hands of rank-and-filer Kaiho on Monday.

Ozeki Asashoryu dropped into a tie for the lead with third-ranked maegashira Dejima at 8-1, with komusubi Wakanosato and two maegashira wrestlers following with seven wins in the 15-day meet at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

In the day's final bout, Kaio beat out Asashoryu in the battle for a favorable belt-gripping position and cleanly executed a well-timed inner-leg trip with his left leg as the Mongolian desperately attempted a throw by holding the neck of the No. 5 maegashira.

Asashoryu crumbled first along the ring's edge in a tight ending but the ringside judges gave the nod to the referee's verdict in favor of Kaiho (5-4), who stopped his four-day losing streak and personal four-bout skid against the yokozuna candidate.

The loss came hours after Japan Sumo Association chairman Kitanoumi made it clear that Asashoryu will be considered for promotion to yokozuna after this tournament on condition that he wins the Emperor's Cup with 13 or more wins.

Asashoryu, winner of the November tourney with a 14-1 record, does not need to face grand champions for the second straight tournament in the absence of retired Takanohana and Musashimaru, who is out of action with a wrist injury.

Dejima once again put on a fine display of the form that once elevated him to sumo's second-highest rank of ozeki, bulldozing winless Toki out of the ring with an unstoppable series of powerful shoves and thrusts.

Wakanosato (7-2) sent a message that he is a major force to be reckoned with, deftly fending off an arm-locking attempt while taking advantage of his favored arm position for a flawless force-out win over fellow komusubi Takanonami (4-5).

No. 9 maegashira Takamisakari (7-2) received an ovation not only for his wild facial expressions and chest-banging antics in a pre-bout ritual but for his lively onrush that sent No. 7 Wakanoyama (3-6) flying backward at the ring's edge.

Makuuchi-division newcomer Takanotsuru shoved out Otsukasa for his seventh win. South Korean Kasugao (6-3) came within two wins of securing a winning record in his debut in the top flight with a deft leg trip that toppled Kasuganishiki.



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