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Saturday, Jan. 26, 2008
Asa, Hakuho still on target for climatic rumble
The Mongolian yokozuna pair appear to be heading for a climatic rumble at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
With two days remaining, grand champion Asashoryu shot down ozeki Kotomitsuki (7-6), while rival yokozuna Hakuho disposed of veteran ozeki Kaio to remain in a dead heat for the lead with 12-1 records at Ryogoku Kokugikan on Friday.
Kotomitsuki appeared to have the advantage when he got in with two hands for a firm belt grip and pushed the yokozuna to the edge, but Asashoryu remained composed and executed a perfectly timed belt throw on the second charge as the two men sailed over the ridge.
Asashoryu, who is aiming for his 22nd Emperor's Cup title on his return from a two-tournament ban, extended his streak against Kotomitsuki to 28 consecutive wins and is 31-6 against the Sadogatake wrestler.
It took an all-out power struggle in the day's final bout, but Hakuho prevailed over Kaio (8-5) in his bid to stay in the race for his third straight title.
The junior yokozuna had to do some finagling with his hands for the best position before getting a well-worked underhanded grip and escorting Kaio over the ridge in convincing fashion.
If the pair can remain even until the final day on Sunday, it would set up a playoff between a yokozuna pair for the first time since Musashimaru faced Takanohana at the autumn 2002 basho.
Kakuryu (11-2), a No. 8 maegashira from Mongolia, was all business in a powerful frontal takeout of compatriot Tokitenku (6-7) to stay one behind the two leaders.
Meanwhile, 10th-ranked maegashira Kyokutenho, yet another Mongolian wrestler, improved to 10-3 after muscling out Kisenosato (8-5) to keep his slim title hopes alive.
Demotion-threatened Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu (7-6) saw his chance to ease his relegation worries spoiled once again when he fell like a ton of bricks against Takekaze, who improved to 10-3.
The ozeki, who dropped to his third consecutive defeat, came flying out the blocks in a blind attack and was quickly shown the exit on a tug maneuver by the No. 7 maegashira.