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Monday, July 9, 2007

Hakuho wins debut; Asa drops opener

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Mongolian grand champion Hakuho jump-started his debut at sumo's ultimate rank with a strong victory over komusubi Tokitenku on the first day of action at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.

News photo
Yokozuna debutant Hakuho, right, severely presses komusubi Tokitenku on the first day of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium on Sunday. The Mongolian won. KYODO PHOTO

But fellow yokozuna Asashoryu suffered an opening day shock defeat at the hands of komusubi Aminishiki.

Hakuho unleashed a series of shoves after the faceoff and stepped away to get a good look at his opponent before moving in for a firm belt grip and squeezing the komusubi over the edge in textbook fashion at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.

Hakuo's crisp start at the 15-day meet was a clear indication he is serious about proving his promotion was well-deserved as he aims for his third consecutive Emperor's Cup title.

Should he prevail, he would become only the eighth wrestler to win his yokozuna debut since former yokozuna Takanohana did so at the New Year meet in 1995.

Asashoryu, Hakuho's chief rival, looked out of sorts in the day's final bout and stepped over the edge when Aminishiki deployed an overarm throw to send him out.

Asashoryu is seeking his 21st title and first since winning the New Year meet in January.

Hakuho's promotion ended Asashoryu's 21-tournament reign as sole grand champion.

In other key bouts, battle-worn Kaio tossed aside Kotoshogiku with a well-timed throw while fellow ozeki Chiyotaikai, steamrolled Asasekiryu, sending his top-ranked maegashira opponent backpedaling over the edge in a matter of seconds.

Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu, who is often criticized for a lack of fighting spirit and "small sumo,"was sent flying over the edge by former ozeki Dejima for the only ozeki upset of the day.

Kotomitsuki won a rumble with Wakanosato, battling back from the brink of defeat to slam down the No. 2 maegashira.

The sekiwake needs roughly 12 convincing wins this time around to be considered for ozeki promotion.

Sekiwake Ama did a balancing act on the raised edge, tugging Takekaze over the ridge.

Earlier, Takamisakari, also known as Mr. Excitement, riled up the crowd with his pre-bout histrionics but Russian No. 3 maegashira Roho read him like a book before lifting out in a frontal force out.

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