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Saturday, March 15, 2003

Asashoryu still chasing Chiyo

OSAKA (Kyodo) Grand champion debutant Asashoryu wiped the clownish expression off Takamisakari's face Friday with a convincing fifth win but was still left chasing front-running Chiyotaikai at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

"Kadoban" ozeki Chiyotaikai hauled down Tosanoumi to grab sole possession of the lead at 6-0 after overnight co-leaders Jumonji and Kotoryu were handed their first defeats of the 15-day meet at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium.

In the day's finale, second-ranked maegashira Takamisakari (1-5) gave the crowd plenty to giggle and cheer about with his bizarre pre-bout rituals and comical facial expressions, earning applause normally reserved for grand champions.

But Asashoryu, who is seeking a third straight Emperor's Cup, had the last laugh as he choked Takamisakari with a vice-like grip and followed through with a pair of powerful slaps before sending his opponent sprawling with a beltless armthrow.

Chiyotaikai outfoxed Tosanoumi (3-3) after a strong clash at the face-off, jinked to the left before pulling the komusubi down by the back of his neck for an easy win.

Fourteenth-ranked maegashira Jumonji's winning streak came to an end after being outclassed by former ozeki Miyabiyama (4-2) while Kotoryu repeatedly jumped the gun before being lifted out of the ring by veteran Takanonami (3-3).

In other key bouts, relegation-haunted ozeki Kaio put Thursday's shock defeat to komusubi Dejima behind him with a routine force-out win over Tamanoshima that leaves both men on 4-2. Kaio needs four more wins to maintain his ozeki status.

It all went belly up again for bumbling Musoyama though, as the bumbling ozeki was barged out by Tochinonada (3-3) and left the ring nursing a sore shoulder and a 1-5 record.

Dejima (4-2) showed glimpses of the form that once elevated him to sumo's second rank of ozeki as he quickly charged faltering sekiwake Kotomitsuki out to a fourth loss.

It was a bad day all round for the sekiwake camp as Wakanosato dropped to 3-3 after being shunted out of the ring by No. 3 maegashira Kotonowaka, who also has a 3-3 record.

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