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Saturday, Jan. 26, 2008

Asa, Hakuho still on target for climatic rumble

Kyodo News

The Mongolian yokozuna pair appear to be heading for a climatic rumble at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

News photo
Komusubi Kotoshogiku (left) unleashes a beltless arm throw against No. 3 maegashira Goeido on the 13th day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Friday at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan. KYODO PHOTO

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.

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