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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Hakuho, Asa still deadlocked

OSAKA (Kyodo) Sekiwake Hakuho overpowered Wakanosato on Saturday to remain tied for the lead with grand champion Asashoryu and set up dramatic climax to the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

News photo
Hakuho pushes out Wakanosato on the 14th day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium.

Mongolian Asashoryu watched compatriot Hakuho score his 13th win of the meet from the sidelines and then took out Kotooshu to keep his hopes of a first title of the year alive on the penultimate day of the 15-day meet at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium.

Relegation-haunted ozeki Kaio also faces a date with destiny on the final day as he moved within one win of completing an improbable escape with a convincing defeat of Kotomitsuki.

Hakuho, whose 12th win on Friday virtually assured him promotion to sumo's second rank of ozeki, edged closer to his first Emperor's Cup when he stunned Wakanosato (10-4) with a cheeky slap and got both arms around the former sekiwake and marched him out of the ring.

Hakuho faces a showdown with Kaio on the final day with Asashoryu, who won all six tournaments last year but missed out on the New Year meet, to take on Tochiazuma.

The 21-year-old Hakuho has had a stunning tournament that included a shock win over Asashoryu and looks set to get the nod for ozeki promotion for the summer meet from the Japan Sumo Association on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, it was business as usual for Asashoryu, who made short work of Kotooshu (9-5) by quickly bumping the Bulgarian ozeki over the straw ridge.

Kaio came into the spring meet with his rank on the line for a record ninth time and has hinted at retiring if he fails to post a winning record here.

It did not look good for the Tomozuna stable wrestler after four defeats in the first six days but he threw himself a lifeline when he outmuscled Kotomitsuki (8-6) to for a vital seventh win.

Elsewhere, Tochiazuma, wrestling for pride after blowing his chances of promotion to yokozuna soaked up a flurry of thrusts before getting the better of fellow ozeki Chiyotaikai (8-6) for an 11th win.

At sumo's fourth rank of komusubi Russian Roho was thrown down to a 10th defeat by Mongolian livewire Ama (7-7) but Miyabiyama notched his ninth victory by slapping down third-ranked maegashira Aminishiki (6-8).

In earlier match-ups, sumo funnyman Takamisakari (6-8) had little to smile about after Mongolian Asasekiryu (9-5) twisted the 11th-ranked maegashira down and saddled him with a fifth straight defeat and a losing record.

Kyokushuzan posted his 11th win of an excellent tournament, defeating teenager Kisenosato at the second attempt with an arm-grabbing force out. Kisenosato dropped to 9-5.

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