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Thursday, March 13, 2003

Asashoryu finds his groove

OSAKA (Kyodo) Grand champion debutant Asashoryu managed to dodge a bullet to get his bid for a third consecutive championship back on track Wednesday with a win over Shimotori on the fourth day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

Handed an embarrassing defeat by Kyokutenho on Tuesday, Asashoryu's performance was far from convincing and the fiery Mongolian came dangerously close to a second major upset at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium.

Asashoryu is one win off the pace at 3-1 behind "kadoban" ozeki Chiyotaikai, who notched his fourth win to move a step closer to keeping his rank. Chiyotaikai shares the overnight lead with rank-and-filers Jumonji and Kotoryu.

Ozeki Kaio also eased his relegation worries with a bread-and-butter victory but there was more misery for Musoyama, who was sent crashing to his fourth straight loss in the 15-day meet.

Asashoryu, who is aiming to become the first wrestler to win the spring meet as a yokozuna debutant, looked like anything but grand champion material as he struggled to contain Shimotori (1-3) in the opening exchanges of the day's final bout.

With Asashoryu teetering dangerously close to the edge of the ring, third-ranked maegashira Shimotori went in for the kill but lost his footing in the process and allowed the yokozuna to drag him down to the clay surface.

Chiyotaikai moved halfway toward the eight wins he needs to stay at ozeki by grabbing crowd favorite Takamisakari (1-3) by the throat and marching him straight out of the ring in convincing fashion.

Kaio had an equally easy day at the office and needed just a few seconds to yank down No. 3 maegashira Kotonowaka (1-3).

But hapless Musoyama never even came close to making it a hat-trick of wins for the ozeki camp as he was overpowered by sekiwake returnee Wakanosato (3-1).

At sekiwake, ozeki hopeful Kotomitsuki was no match for fourth-ranked maegashira Tamanoshima (3-1) and was bumped out to a second defeat.



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