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Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2005

Asashoryu on track for sweep

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Yokozuna Asashoryu showed no mercy against Mongolian compatriot Ama and solidified his lead on the 10th day of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Tuesday.

Asashoryu entertained the crowd at Fukuoka Kokusai Center with a bout rarely seen in top-level sumo, spinning around his pint-sized opponent from behind in the middle of the ring and lifting him also from behind over the straw bales to keep his unbeaten record intact.

Ama, a No. 5 maegashira, is at 5-5 after his first meeting with the grand champion.

With his 10th straight win, Asashoryu took another step closer to an unprecedented seventh straight Emperor's Cup and a sweep of all six tournaments this year. He is now two wins clear of ozeki Chiyotaikai and rank-and-filer Jumonji with five days left in the tournament.

Bulgarian sekiwake Kotooshu was dealt a fresh blow in his bid to earn promotion to sumo's second highest rank.

Kotooshu appeared headed for an eighth win when he shoved top-ranked maegashira Tamanoshima (6-4) to the edge of the ring with a tight two-handed belt grip. But Tamanoshima circled along the straw ridge and unleashed a last-gasp armpit throw that spun Kotooshu upside down and eventually toppled him on his back for his third loss.

Kotooshu lost to Asashoryu in a championship playoff in September but posted an impressive 13-2 record. He is believed to secure promotion to ozeki with double-digit wins here in Fukuoka under the Japan Sumo Association's loosely set standards.

In other key bouts, local favorite Kaio came within one win of keeping his ozeki rank with arguably his best match of the tournament.

Kaio (7-3) took the belt of Kotomitsuki (7-3) moments after the face-off and then shoved forward to put away the bout in a matter of seconds, sending the sekiwake to his second loss in as many days.

Fellow Kyushu native Chiyotaikai notched his eighth win in equally convincing fashion as the ozeki sent 19-year-old No. 5 maegashira Kisenosato (4-6) backpedaling out of the ring following a string of unstoppable slaps and thrusts.

Mongolian komusubi Hakuho improved to 7-3 win after bulldozing his way to a comfortable shove-out victory over second-ranked maegashira Futeno.

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