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Friday, Jan. 25, 2008

Hakuho, Asashoryu stay level at the top

Kyodo News

Grand champion Hakuho tamed ozeki Kotooshu in a relentless attack while yokozuna rival Asashoryu knocked off Aminishiki to maintain a share of the lead on the 12th day of action at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Thursday.

News photo
Ozeki Kaio (left) pushes No. 10 maegashira Kyokutenho out of the ring on Thursday in the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament at Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo. KYODO PHOTO

Hakuho and Asashoryu improved to 11-1 while rank-and-filer Kakuryu is chasing the two leaders with a 10-2 record. Seventh-ranked maegashira Takekaze and 10th-ranked maegashira Kyokutenho are two off the pace at 9-3.

In the day's penultimate bout at Ryogoku Kokugikan, Hakuho was the picture of efficiency, shoving Kotooshu off balance with a series of quick shoves before dumping the Bulgarian ozeki to the dohyo surface with a sure-fire beltless arm throw. Kotooshu (7-5) remained one win away from easing his relegation worries.

Asashoryu, back at the Tokyo meet from a two-tournament ban, snapped a two-bout losing streak to Aminishiki, improving to 12-4 in career bout against the sekiwake.

In the day's final match, Asashoryu showed a concentrated effort from start to finish, moving in quickly for a firm left-handed grip before driving the sekiwake over the straw bales in a lopsided affair. Aminishiki fell to 5-7.

Asashoryu suffered a defeat to Kisenosato on the second day while Hakuho bounced back with a victory Wednesday from a loss to Ama on the 10th day, putting both men in a collision course as the 15-day meet winds down.

Asashoryu has a chance to win his 22nd Emperor's Cup title, a distinction that would put him in a tie for fourth on the all-time list with former yokozuna Takanohana. Hakuho is shooting for his third straight title and sixth overall.

In the ozeki rank, veteran Kaio picked up a majority of wins with a textbook frontal takeout of Kyokutenho, who saw his slim title hopes all but fade with a third defeat.

Kotomitsuki took his time to gain leverage before grinding out Mongolian Asasekiryu to improve to 7-5 while leaving his opponent with an 8-4 record.

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