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Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2003

Asashoryu gets back to winning ways

Ozeki Asashoryu got his yokozuna challenge back on track at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Tuesday after tripping up rank-and-filer Kotonowaka to stay in a tie for the lead.

Keeping pace with the Mongolian trickster on nine wins is former ozeki Dejima, who turned back the clock to blast past Kotoryu at the 15-day meet at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

On a day when the sumo world woke up pondering the retirement of Takanohana, Asashoryu (9-1) showed why he is being touted to take over from the yokozuna legend as the dominant force in sumo.

The Takasago trickster, who can secure promotion to grand champion by lifting a second successive Emperor's Cup with 13 wins or more, had suffered back and leg injuries when he fell to his first defeat against Kaiho on Monday.

But despite heavy strapping over his right calf, he brushed aside any worries with a trademark display of pace and power to easily outmaneuver bulky No. 3 maegashira Kotonowaka (4-6).

Dejima has endured a torrid 18 months since slipping from sumo's second rank but looked back near his best with a no-nonsense victory over the No. 8 maegashira.

The No. 3 maegashira was all over Kotoryu (6-4) from the charge, quickly getting a strong grip on the belt before lifting him out of the ring.

Meanwhile, Wakanosato pulled a victory from the jaws of defeat to remain just one win off the pace along with two lower-ranked wrestlers.

Up against the edge of the straw bales, the komusubi borrowed a throw from the judo mat to beat No. 5 maegashira Kaiho (5-5).

Also getting out of a hole to stay at 8-2 was Takamisakari. The popular No. 9 maegashira slipped out of the grasp of Gojoro (5-5) and twisted out the No. 10 maegashira.

No. 12 maegashira Takanotsuru joined the pair one win back after making short work of Akinoshima (2-8).



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