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Monday, Jan. 23, 2006

Tochiazuma captures third Emperor's Cup title

Ozeki Tochiazuma captured his third career title after overpowering yokozuna Asashoryu on the final day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.

News photo
Ozeki Tochiazuma defeats yokozuna Asashoryu with an upper-arm throw to clinch his third Emperor's Cup on the final day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Tochiazuma, who won his first Emperor's Cup in 13 meets, quickly got a left-handed grip on Asashoryu's belt after the face-off and dumped the yokozuna to the dirt in the day's final bout to finish with an outstanding 14-1 mark at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.

"I had to recover from my injury and really had to fight to come back. I have to thank all my fans. I had a lot of troubling times, but I plan to aim even higher from now," said Tochiazuma.

Tochiazuma came out this basho fighting relegation from his ozeki status after having to pull out of the Kyushu meet last November with an injury, but surpassed his wildest expectations with a tournament victory to start off the new year.

"I will aim toward making yokozuna. I promise to do my best from the next tournament," added the 29-year-old Tamanoi stable wrestler.

Asashoryu, who won all six titles in 2005, saw his hopes for an unprecedented eighth straight title shattered when he was mathematically left out of the running a day earlier, and he never regained his focus as he ended his campaign with a disappointing 11-4 mark.

The yokozuna was tripped up early in the 15-day meet, losing to Kokkai on the second day before falling to Mongolian wrestlers Hakuho and Ama and finally to Tochiazuma, showing his worst sumo in recent years.

Sekiwake Hakuho almost set up a championship playoff with the ozeki when he beat Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu in Sunday's penultimate bout, but the matchup was never to be.

News photo
Hakuho (left), Hokutoriki (center) and Tokitsuumi hold their trophies after earning special awards at the conclusion of the New Year Tournament.

Kotooshu came out as one of the top candidates to win the title but ended the basho with a less than impressive mark in his debut at sumo's second-highest rank. The ozeki never got started against Hakuho and was quickly tossed over the edge to a fifth defeat while the sekiwake improved to 13-2.

In other bouts, Hokutoriki, who won nine straight bouts from the opening day and claimed his third Fighting Spirit Prize, swatted down Russian wrestler Roho (9-6) immediately after the face-off.

The 11th-ranked maegashira was in the title race until the 14th day and finished his campaign with an impressive 12-3 mark.

Tokitsuumi (12-3), a 14th-ranked maegashira who had also been in contention, soaked up a violent charge from Kotomitsuki (8-7) and battled back to toss the sekiwake to the dirt surface. Tokitsuumi picked up his fourth career Technique Prize.

Mongolian little-man Ama (9-6) failed to get out of the raging path of Miyabiyama and was crushed, pushed over the edge to his sixth defeat while Miyabiyama ended on 8-7.

Sumo funny man Takamisakari was blown away with a series of shoves by Georgian Kokkai, falling to a losing mark of 7-8 while Kokkai posted his eighth win of the tournament.

Kitazakura (9-6) missed out on his first Fighting Spirit Prize when he was thrown down by a rampaging Kotoshogiku, who posted his eighth win.



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