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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Asashoryu returns to form, grabs 1st victory of tournament

OSAKA (Kyodo) Grand champion Asashoryu put two nightmare bouts behind him with a thrashing of rank-and-filer Futeno at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Tuesday.

News photo
Top-ranked maegashira Toyonoshima, left, pushes sekiwake Kotoshogiku out of the ring on the third day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium on Tuesday. KYODO PHOTO

After losing his first two matches at the 15-day meet, Asashoryu pounced on Futeno in the day's final bout at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, grinding the winless No. 4 maegashira over the straw bales in no-nonsense fashion for his first win.

Asashoryu won his 20th Emperor's Cup at the New Year meet in January but later had to shoot down accusations of bout-rigging by a weekly tabloid magazine.

All the commotion surrounding the allegations appeared to have shaken Asashoryu's confidence, despite the yokozuna saying that he was unfazed and ready for business in Osaka.

Now he will have to play catch-up in his bid to win his fifth consecutive title.

Ozeki Tochiazuma shares the early lead in a group of seven wrestlers with 3-0 records.

Former ozeki Miyabiyama, who defeated Asashoryu on Monday, got into a slugfest with ozeki Hakuho before both wrestlers fell to the dohyo surface nearly simultaneously.

Ringside judges called for a rematch and Hakuho went straight in for the kill, knocking Miyabiyama (1-2) over the edge with a series of hard shoves to improve to 2-1.

Chiyotaikai flattened South Korean Kasugao in a barrage of slaps, leaving both at 2-1, while fellow ozeki Tochiazuma toppled Mongolian komusubi Ama (1-2), who despite his relatively small frame fought it out with the ozeki until the end.

Tochiazuma, who has his ozeki status on the line, must notch eight wins this time out.

In the only ozeki upset, Mongolian komusubi Tokitenku (2-1), who upset Asashoryu on the opening day of the tournament, sent a spineless Kaio (1-2) backpedaling out to his second straight defeat in matter of seconds.

Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu immediately swatted down Takekaze (2-1) after the faceoff to post his second win.

In another key bout, sekiwake Kotomitsuki (3-0) kept a clean slate, taking out winless Mongolian Asasekiryu in short order.

But top-ranked maegashira Toyonoshima banged up Kotoshogiku in a lopsided affair to win his third straight, while leaving the newly promoted sekiwake at 0-3.

In earlier bouts, Dejima, a No. 8 maegashira, bulldozed winless Kasuganishiki to stay in a share of the lead at 3-0, while crowd favorite Takamisakari got his first win with a deft pull-down of Tamakasuga (1-2).



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