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Monday, Sept. 24, 2007
Hakuho captures title
Mongolian grand champion Hakuho captured his first title since his promotion to sumo's highest rank Sunday, ripping through ozeki Chiyotaikai to claim the coveted hardware at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.
Hakuho won his fourth career Emperor's Cup, finishing with a 13-2 record at the 15-day meet. The 22-year-old achieved the feat in his second basho since his promotion, although it was in the absence of suspension-hit grand champion Asashoryu — sumo's dominant force.
In the day's final bout, Hakuho looked his best after an opening day defeat to Mongolian sekiwake Ama and a loss to Toyonoshima on the 11th day, getting his left hand in for a belt grip before barreling Chiyotaikai (9-6) out in convincing fashion at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
"Winning is everything as a yokozuna," Hakuho said. "I had pressure (after my losses) but a yokozuna is a yokozuna, so I had to do my best to get the title. I didn't know how it would turn out but just kept my focus each day."
Asashoryu, who was punished for playing in a charity soccer match despite claiming injuries, will also be suspended for the Kyushu meet in November and Hakuho intends to take full advantage.
"Of course, next meet I will do my best to lead in the title race," he said.
Mongolian Kyokutenho (12-3), a No. 12 maegashira who worked his way back into the elite division after a temporary drop into the second-tier juryo division, kept his title hopes alive in the early going with a frontal takeout of Tamakasuga (8-7).
Kyokutenho, who won his career fifth Fighting Spirit Prize, was the only wrestler with a mathematical chance of catching Hakuho and ensured that the yokozuna had to wait to the final bout before popping the victory cork.
In other major bouts, Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu showed another weak-willed display, as he was quickly rolled out by sekiwake Aminishiki (10-5) to a third consecutive defeat after posting a majority of wins and finished with an unflattering 8-7 mark.
Newly promoted ozeki Kotomitsuki (10-5) had no problem disposing of Kisenosato (6-9) to notch double-digit wins.
Ama, who won the Outstanding Performance Prize along with Toyonoshima, uncharacteristically backpedaled over the edge after Kotoshogiku grappled him at the ring's center.
Goeido, who made his debut at this meet in the makuuchi division, barged out Yoshikaze (10-5) in the day's opening bout to finish with an impressive mark of 11-4 and won the Fighting Spirit Prize.
Goeido, a 14th-ranked maegashira, gave sumo fans a thrill when he took the sole lead on the 11th day and was in a race for the title until falling to Hakuho on the penultimate day.
Crowd favorite Takamisakari (8-7) did a balancing act on the straw bales while on his heels, before twisting down Kakizoe (9-6).
Kakizoe first got the "gunbai" for victory but ringside judges convened and decided Takamisakari's feet were still in the ring allowing the No. 9 maegashira to notch a win.