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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Asashoryu drags down Kotomitsuki for sole lead

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Grand champion Asashoryu hauled down sekiwake Kotomitsuki to take sole possession of the lead Monday but promotion-chasing ozeki Hakuho suffered his second defeat at the hands of sekiwake Miyabiyama at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.

News photo
Ozeki Chiyotaikai slams down Tochiazuma to hand the fellow ozeki his first loss of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament on Monday at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium. KYODO PHOTO

There were plenty of exciting matchups and upsets at the Nagoya meet on Monday, highlighted by Asashoryu's bout with Kotomitsuki and Hakuho's scrap with Miyabiyama -- a rematch of their playoff bout at the summer meet in May.

In the day's final bout, Asashoryu appeared at a disadvantage when the sekiwake beat him at the charge but deftly maneuvered his injured right arm inside for a grip on Kotomitsuki's right arm before flinging him to the dirt to improve to 9-0 at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium. Kotomitsuki slipped to 5-4.

Asashoryu, who skipped the summer meet with an injured right elbow, is the odds-on favorite to win his 17th career title.

In an upset, Miyabiyama never let his ozeki rival in for a belt grip and pushed Hakuho off-balance onto his hands, leaving the ozeki at 7-2 and nearly dashing his hopes for yokozuna promotion.

Hakuho won the summer meet in his debut at ozeki but needs to notch at least 13 wins while capturing the tournament hardware. Miyabiyama (5-4), who got sweet revenge for his loss against the ozeki in May, needs at least 11 wins to gain promotion to ozeki.

In an ozeki battle, Chiyotaikai sent Tochiazuma to his first defeat, using a salvo of snappy thrusts before propelling Tochiazuma into the ringside seats, leaving both men one behind the yokozuna along with rank-and-filers Tamanoshima and Tamakasuga at 8-1.

Meanwhile, Bulgarian Kotooshu lost a battle with Estonian rank-and-filer Baruto, who twisted the ozeki around with his back to the edge and lifted Kotooshu out, leaving both men at 6-3. It was the first matchup between the two European wrestlers.

Ozeki Kaio got Kotoshogiku's arm pinned with a right-handed grip before bellying out the top-ranked maegashira, improving his slate to 6-3. Kotoshogiku slipped to 1-8.

Elsewhere, crowd favorite Takamisakari attempted a left-handed grip against Futeno (5-4) but could not hold back the No. 5 maegashira's torrent and was sent abruptly over the edge to his seventh defeat.

Sumo lightweight Ama was overwhelmed by heavyweight Iwakiyama, who knocked his opponent over with a slap to the back to improve to 5-4. Ama dropped to an unflattering 2-7 mark.

Meanwhile, struggling Mongolian Kyokutenho beat Russian Hakurozan.

Roho suspension

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Japan Sumo Association Chairman Kitanoumi said Monday he believes the imposition of a three-day suspension on Roho is appropriate amid criticism that the Russian rank-and-filer deserves tougher penalties for losing his temper and attacking two photographers last week.

"I know there are many opinions on our decision, but I think the three-day suspension is appropriate," Kitanoumi said in a meeting with reporters. "It might be considered severe since it won't be easy for Roho to post a winning record with just five matches remaining after his return on Wednesday."

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