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Sunday, Jan. 26, 2003

Asashoryu bags New Year basho

Ozeki Asashoryu pulled out all the stops against Kotomitsuki on Saturday to claim his second consecutive Emperor's Cup by winning the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament and virtually secure promotion to yokozuna.

In the day's penultimate bout, the jaunty Mongolian got down to business, quickly outmaneuvering his sekiwake nemesis at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Kotomitsuki (8-6) got his right hand under the ozeki's armpit for leverage, but Asashoryu retaliated by whipping the sekiwake's arm around and grabbing a thigh as he plowed him over the edge to move to an insurmountable 13-1 record.

With his back-to-back tournament victories, Asashoryu is certain to be promoted to sumo's highest rank, joining Musashimaru as the only two grand champions after the retirement of Takanohana on Monday.

Asashoryu, who won the Kyushu meet in November with a 14-1 record, will also become the first Mongolian yokozuna.

Komusubi Wakanosato (11-3), coming off a costly loss to Asashoryu the previous day, notched a tight win over Kyokushuzan (6-8) in an earlier bout but his effort came to nothing in putting off title celebrations for the 22-year-old Takasago-stable ozeki.

Wakanosato had to jostle with Kyokushuzan for position but got above the sixth-ranked maegashira before pushing him down into a split to hand him a losing record.

Third-ranked Dejima (10-4), however, saw his chance at the title evaporate after falling to top-ranked Tosanoumi (7-7).

The former ozeki surged with a superb charge after the face-off but stumbled clumsily onto the clay under the momentum of his own weight and a sidestepping Tosanoumi.

Meanwhile, ozeki Musoyama (8-6) redeemed some respectability with a bread-and-butter win over eighth-ranked Kotoryu (8-6).

Sekiwake Takanowaka (9-5) lorded over crowd-favorite Takamisakari (9-5), lifting the ninth-ranked grappler over the edge for an emphatic frontal force-out.

South Korean Kasugao (9-5) dumped Takanotsuru (9-5) to the dirt but had to be carted away in a wheelchair with an apparent leg injury.



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