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Monday, July 10, 2006

Hakuho falls to 1st-day loss at Nagoya sumo

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Mongolian ozeki Hakuho suffered a shock defeat at the hands of countryman Asasekiryu on Sunday, seeing his hopes for yokozuna promotion take a dent on the first day of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.

Hakuho appeared to have the bout under control after the faceoff, keeping his komusubi opponent at arm's length with well-measured thrusts, but lost his balance and fumbled forward before Asasekiryu quickly shoved him out from behind in the day's penultimate bout at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.

It was an ominous start for Hakuho, who is aiming to win his second straight title and become only the third wrestler in the modern sumo era to gain promotion to sumo's ultimate rank in just his second basho at ozeki.

Yokozuna Asashoryu, meanwhile, bounced back from an elbow injury layoff at the summer meet in May, disposing of 20-year-old rising-star Kisenosato in the day's final bout.

The yokozuna, whose right elbow is still tapped, got a left-handed grip on Kisenosato right after the faceoff and charged his komusubi opponent out, adding a cheeky shove for emphasis.

The yokozuna is in the hunt for his 17th career title and first since capturing the Emperor's Cup at the spring meet.

In other key bouts, Tochiazuma, back after missing the summer meet through injury, wasted little time barreling out Mongolian Kyokutenho to move a step toward the eight wins necessary to maintain his ozeki status.

But Bulgarian Kotooshu, still nursing the lingering effects of a knee injury, was swatted down by Russian Hakurozan immediately after the faceoff for the day's first ozeki casualty.

Kaio was never fooled by Mongolian trickster Kyokushuzan, moving straight ahead to send the top-ranked maegashira flailing over the edge for a first-day win.

Chiyotaikai, meanwhile, unleashed his trademark thrusting attack against Kotoshogiku, hitting the No. 1 maegashira with a barrage of slaps before escorting him over the raised-edge.

Sekiwake Miyabiyama, who lost to Hakuho in a playoff in May after marking a 14-1 record, was upset by Russian Roho in a lopsided affair.

Miyabiyama, who needs at least 11 wins to return to his ozeki status for the first time in five years, backpedaled immediately after the faceoff against the third-ranked maegashira and was toppled into the ringside seats.

Kokkai, from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, was slammed over the ridge in a matter of seconds by Futeno, while Estonian Baruto got fellow No. 4 maegashira Ama in an impregnable armlock after being pushed to edge and twisted his smaller opponent out.

In an early bout, crowd favorite Takamisakari got himself riled up with his pre-bout histrionics, only to be heaved over the edge by Tokitenku.

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