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Monday, Jan. 22, 2007

Asa ends with authority

Compiled from Kyodo, AP reports

Mongolian grand champion Asashoryu wrapped up the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament in style with a classy win over Kotooshu on the final day of the 15-day meet in Tokyo on Sunday.

News photo
Yokozuna Asashoryu throws down ozeki Kotooshu on Sunday, the final day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan. KYODO PHOTO

A day after capturing his 20th Emperor's Cup, the 26-year-old yokozuna overcame a shaky start and put the icing on the cake by flooring the Bulgarian ozeki (9-6) with a beltless arm throw to close with a 14-1 record.

"I didn't worry about what my opponents were doing and just focused on my own sumo," said Asashoryu. "I was able to concentrate and was in good physical condition for the entire tournament."

Asashoryu's 13th win on Saturday ensured he joined former yokozuna greats Taiho, Kitanoumi, Chiyonofuji and Takanohana in an elite group of five wrestlers to have lifted 20 titles.

"It was a dream of mine to win 20 titles, and I am really pleased to have achieved that," said Asashoryu. "I am going to try hard again to win the next tournament."

"I had better balance in the second half of the tournament and was able to stay totally focused," he added.

Surprise package Toyonoshima finished on a high by taking down sekiwake Kotomitsuki (8-7) with a perfectly timed under-shoulder pull-down to finish runnerup with a 12-3 record.

The ninth-ranked maegashira was rewarded for his efforts with the Fighting Spirit Prize and the Technique Prize, two of three special awards handed out by the Japan Sumo Association to makuuchi division wrestlers on the final day of a tournament.

"I am pleased to get 12 wins. I have wrestled offensively in a lot of the bouts here, and it has been a great experience for me," said Toyonoshima, who can expect a hefty bump up the rankings for the next tournament in March.

In other main bouts, Hakuho overpowered Chiyotaikai in an all-ozeki affair to post his 10th win in a solid comeback to the raised ring after missing the Kyushu meet in November with a broken toe. Chiyotaikai also finished 10-5.

In the day's penultimate fight, Kaio scored a crucial eighth win when he toppled fellow ozeki Tochiazuma, who returned to the locker room nursing a 5-10 mark.

Struggling sekiwake Miyabiyama (5-10) got pulled down by third-ranked Kyokutenho, who ensured a majority of wins, while it was a bad day all round for sumo's fourth rank of komusubi.

Fourth-ranked Ama (10-5) snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by outlasting Kisenosato and saddled the komusubi with a 7-8 losing record, ending a disappointing campaign for his opposition.

Top maegashira Kotoshogiku denied fan favorite Takamisakari a winning record when he muscled out the fifth-ranked maegashira to improve to 9-6. Takamisakari finished the tournament with a record of 7-8.

In an all-Eastern European showdown, Georgian-born Kokkai, a fifth-ranked maegashira, overpowered struggling komusubi Roho of Russia to post his seventh win against eight losses. It was a disastrous tourney for Roho, who dropped to 3-12.

The next tournament, when Asashoryu will try to build on his impressive tally, will be held March 11-25 in Osaka.



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