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Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2005

Asashoryu rolls as Kaio stumbles

Ozeki Kaio's fresh bid for promotion to yokozuna suffered a hammer blow Monday after he was handed a shock defeat by Kotonowaka on the second day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

Kaio (1-1) looked to be in control of the bout at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan but somehow lost his way at the edge of the ring and crumpled in a heap after being thrown down by the No. 2 maegashira (1-1).

Kaio won the autumn title with a 13-2 record in September last year and finished runnerup to Asashoryu with a 12-3 record at the Kyushu meet in November. He needs 13 wins or a sixth Emperor's Cup victory here to stand any chance of promotion.

Meanwhile, it was business as usual for Mongolian grand champion Asashoryu, who blasted out Tosanoumi while Chiyotaikai, stunned on Sunday, got back on track with a textbook "tsukidashi" win over komusubi Kotomitsuki.

Asashoryu (2-0), who is targeting victories at all six tournaments this year after missing out only on the autumn title in 2004, is the hot favorite to win the New Year meet and in the day's finale he never gave Tosanoumi (0-2) a look in.

The 24-year-old bruiser from the land of Genghis Khan kept the No. 2 maegashira at bay with a pair of solid shoves and timed his hand pull-down to perfection for the victory.

Asashoryu is looking to join sumo greats Taiho, Kitanoumi and Chiyonofuji as the only wrestlers to win the New Year meet three years in a row since the establishment of the six-tournament system in 1958.

Chiyotaikai, who is battling to save his ozeki rank after a disappointing 7-8 record in Kyushu, steamed into Kotomitsuki with a series of neck thrusts and slaps to leave both men with 1-1 marks.

At sekiwake, injury-weary Tochiazuma (2-0) also won when he bumped out winless Kokkai after a fierce clash of heads as he seeks to regain the ozeki rank he lost after withdrawing from the Kyushu meet in November with a damaged shoulder.

Perennial bridesmaid Wakanosato gave Bulgarian Kotooshu (1-1) a sumo lesson to notch his second win and stay on course for promotion to sumo's second rank of ozeki.

Wakanosato read Kotooshu like a book and got both arms wrapped around him to squash him to the floor while sekiwake teammate Miyabiyama also improved to 2-0 after taking out Tamanoshima (0-2).

Wakanosato has a solid shot at ozeki if he can post at least 12 wins, which would make him the only wrestler in the makuuchi division to record a total of 33 wins in the three tournaments leading up to his promotion to the second-highest rank.

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