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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Hakuho shocks Asashoryu to take lead

OSAKA (Kyodo) Sekiwake Hakuho stunned grand champion Asashoryu to take sole possession of the lead while struggling ozeki Kaio scored a priceless win and killed off Tochiazuma's yokozuna promotion hopes in the process at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Wednesday.

News photo
Sekiwake and ozeki contender Hakuho beats yokozuna Asashoryu with an upper-arm throw in a battle of undefeated wrestlers in the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium.

In the day's finale at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium, Hakuho (11-0) maintained his spotless record and took a massive stride towards promotion to ozeki with a classy win over his mentor and fellow Mongolian.

After a stalemate at the center of the ring, Hakuho spotted an opening and yanked Asashoryu down by the front of his "mawashi" belt to move one win clear of the yokozuna with four days of the tournament remaining.

"I'm pleased. I did well to stay on my feet and get hold of his belt. Keeping cool was the key," said Hakuho, who also beat Asashoryu at the New Year meet. "Now I just have to keep focused until the end of the tournament."

Kaio (5-6), fighting to save his rank and sumo career, gained advantage after a weak attack at the "tachi-ai" and stood firm to work Tochiazuma over the edge and end the ozeki's hopes of reaching sumo's top rank of yokozuna.

New Year champion Tochiazuma (8-3) came into the tournament with the hope of becoming the first Japanese yokozuna since Takanohana retired in 2003.

However sumo officials said he would need to post at least 13 wins to be considered worthy of a place at sumo's pinnacle.

Meanwhile, Bulgarian heartthrob Kotooshu, who has been nursing a knee injury sustained shortly before the tournament, made short work of second-ranked maegashira Hokutoriki (1-10) to secure a winning record.

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