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Friday, March 24, 2006

Tochi downs Hakuho as Asa grabs share of lead at spring meet

OSAKA (Kyodo) Tochiazuma bounced back to hand promotion-chasing Mongolian sekiwake Hakuho his first loss and throw yokozuna Asashoryu a championship lifeline at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Thursday.

News photo
Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu (left) and No. 3 maegashira Aminishiki go flying into the front row of cushions on the 12th day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium.

Hakuho's defeat gave Asashoryu (11-1) the chance to reclaim a share of the lead and the bully from Ulan Bator took full advantage by spanking relegation-haunted ozeki Kaio in the day's final bout at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium.

Tochiazuma, whose fading hopes of promotion to yokozuna evaporated after Wednesday's defeat to Kaio, soaked up a barrage of slaps and thrusts from the Mongolian but held steady to bounce him out of the ring for a ninth win.

Lone yokozuna Asashoryu boosted his hopes of an eighth title in nine tournaments and cranked the heat back up on Kaio (5-7) when he bundled out the ozeki before losing his footing on the sandy surface.

The result left injury-plagued Kaio needing to win all of his remaining three bouts to retain his ozeki status.

His stable master indicated that the 33-year-old may retire if he fails to post a winning record this time but Kaio is eager to battle out the rest of the meet and hinted Wednesday he may have a change of heart.

In other key bouts, Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu (9-3) disposed of Aminishiki (6-6) at the second time of asking, squashing the third-ranked maegashira in rematch when the pair went flying into the front row of cushions.

But ozeki Chiyotaikai (8-4) lost the plot when he tried to pull Kotomitsuki's ears off his head only for the sekiwake to recover and barge him out of the dohyo to ensure a winning record.

In a match-up between east European grapplers, Russian Roho, who is set for a drop in the rankings after a disappointing komusubi debut here, emerged victorious from a bullfight with Georgia's Kokkai. Both men have 3-9 records.

Komusubi Miyabiyama secured a majority of eight wins when the one-time ozeki beat top-ranked maegashira Tamanoshima (4-8) with a routine pull-down.

In earlier bouts, "Saltshaker" Kitazakura, who is emerging as a rival to Takamisakari in the popularity stakes, exchanged high fives with fans on the way back to the locker room after beating up Kakizoe (7-5) for a seventh win.

But goofball Takamisakari, famous for his chest-beating warm-up routine rather than his fighting qualities, was dumped to a defeat Mongolian Tokitenku (7-5) and dropped to 6-6.

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