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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2006

Asashoryu fends off tough challenge to grab share of lead

Grand champion Asashoryu defeated Kotomitsuki on Tuesday to grab a share of the lead heading into the final stretch of the 15-day meet at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo.

News photo
Yokozuna Asashoryu pulls down komusubi Kyokutenho during their bout at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Asashoryu's win moved him into a strong position for a record eighth straight Emperor's Cup, joining ozeki Tochiazuma and dark horse Hokutoriki in a three-way tie at 9-1 as the race for the championship heats up.

Tochiazuma rebounded from Monday's defeat to Miyabiyama with a win over Iwakiyama but 11th-ranked Hokutoriki surrendered pole position after suffering his first loss of the tournament.

Asashoryu, winner of all six tournaments in 2005, was given the fright of his life as Kotomitsuki (7-3) matched the yokozuna blow for blow after the tachiai in the day's finale at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

But the Mongolian magician pulled a rabbit out of his hat and claimed victory by toppling the sekiwake with a beltless arm throw.

Tochiazuma also dodged a bullet in his bout with Iwakiyama (5-5), and had to pull of a balancing act on the straw ridge to yank the No. 5 maegashira down to the dirt.

In other matches, Bulgarian Kotooshu stayed in the hunt for a first title, securing a winning mark on his ozeki debut after making mincemeat out of Kasuganishiki (4-6).

Kotooshu's eighth win keeps him in a chasing pack of four wrestlers on 8-2, including sekiwake Hakuho, who ground out a hard-fought win over Miyabiyama.

But Russian No. 2 maegashira Roho's title hopes suffered a blow after he was chased out of the ring by Mongolian Ama, leaving both men on 7-3

Georgian No. 2 maegashira Kokkai, who handed Asashoryu his only defeat of the tournament so far, burst out of his blocks and stunned Kakizoe with a barrage of thrusts to post his sixth win.

Seventh-ranked Kakizoe is also 6-4.

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