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Monday, July 16, 2007

Hakuho stretches streak to 24

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Grand champion Hakuho retained his share of the lead with sekiwake Kotomitsuki with an unblemished record, dodging a bullet against rank-and-filer Toyonoshima on the eighth day of action of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.

In the day's finale, Hakuho got off to a sluggish start and almost found himself on the losing end before somehow escaping Toyonoshima's grasp to improve to 8-0 at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.

Toyonoshima, who fell to 2-6, momentarily knocked the yokozuna off-balance but Hakuho maintained his composure before swatting the No. 4 maegashira forward onto his knees.

With the victory, Hakuho stretched his winning streak to 24 bouts in regulation, extending back to a win on the final day of the spring tourney in March.

Hakuho won back-to-back Emperor's Cups before earning yokozuna promotion to end Asashoryu's 21-tournament reign as the sole grand champion. In the process, the 22-year-old from Ulan Bator beat Asashoryu in a championship playoff in March and achieved a 15-0 triumph in May.

Promotion-chasing sekiwake Kotomitsuki, meanwhile, muscled out Kaio, toppling the ozeki over the edge in a matter of seconds to stay perfect in front of his hometown crowd. Kaio slipped to 7-2.

Yokozuna Asashoryu, who is aiming for his first championship victory in three meets, stayed hot in the title pursuit for his 21st Emperor's Cup in a heated matchup against sumo's court jester, Takamisakari.

After a quick exchange of blows after the faceoff, Asashoryu heaved his opponent up into the air and slammed him to the dohyo surface to improve to 7-1. Takamisakari dropped to an unflattering 1-7.

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