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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Tochiazuma's hopes dented after 2nd loss at spring sumo

OSAKA (Kyodo) Ozeki Tochiazuma's hopes of promotion to yokozuna suffered a fresh blow Saturday after a shock defeat to Miyabiyama on the seventh day of the Spring Grand Tournament.

News photo
Yokozuna Asashoryu throws down Roho on the seventh day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium.

Tochiazuma dropped two wins behind Mongolian grand champion Asashoryu, who gunned down Russian komusubi Roho to retain his share of the lead with countryman Hakuho at 7-0.

Chiyotaikai also suffered a second loss but all may not be lost for troubled ozeki Kaio, who recorded a crucial win over Iwakiyama to improve to 3-4 and ease fears of demotion from sumo's second rank.

Tochiazuma was in trouble from the face-off at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium and was unable to respond to a hailstorm of slaps and thrusts from komusubi Miyabiyama (3-4) before being dragged down to the dirt.

Tochiazuma's defeat means he cannot afford to lose any more bouts in the 15-day meet if he is to succeed in his latest bid to reach sumo's highest rank.

The Tamanoi stable wrestler is aiming to become the first Japanese grand champion since Takanohana retired in 2003 but needs to post a minimum of 13 wins to be considered for a move up the rankings.

Asashoryu moved closer to his eighth title in nine tournaments in the day's finale when he got a firm left-handed grip on Roho's (1-6) belt and tipped him onto the sandy surface.

Kaio, who is likely to bring the curtain down on his injury-plagued career if he fails to record the eight wins he needs to keep his rank, yanked down Iwakiyama to end a three-bout losing streak but Chiyotaikai lost his way against Tamanoshima.

Top-ranked Tamanoshima fended off Chiyotaikai's trademark thrusts and kept him at arm's length before pulling the ozeki down for only his second win of the meet.

In other bouts, Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu (5-2) almost paid the price for craftily dodging Dejima (4-3) at the "tachi-ai" but thwarted off a strong attack from the former ozeki to floor him with an overarm throw.

Looking more like ozeki material as the tournament progresses, Hakuho proved to be an immovable object when the promotion-chasing sekiwake weathered an early storm to force out top-ranked Kokkai (2-5) and stay alongside mentor Asashoryu at the top of the leaderboard.

Sekiwake Kotomitsuki stayed in touch with the leaders at 6-1 as he bulldozed out Hokutoriki to sentence the struggling maegashira to his seventh defeat of the tournament.

In the preceding bout, lightweight No. 2 maegashira Ama moved back into the winning column with a gritty fourth win over sixth-ranked Kakizoe, who slipped to 3-4.



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