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Monday, March 24, 2008

Asashoryu beats Hakuho, earns 22nd Emperor's Cup

Overpowers rival for first title in four tournaments

OSAKA (Kyodo) Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu posted a sweet victory over rival Hakuho to win his first title of the year on the final day of the Spring Grand Tournament on Sunday.

News photo
Yokozuna Asashoryu throws down yokozuna rival Hakuho to win his first Emperor's Cup in four tournaments and 22nd overall on Sunday in final-day action of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium. KYODO PHOTOS

Asashoryu came into the bout determined to exact swift revenge over Hakuho, who had spoiled his comeback from a two-tournament suspension with victory on the last day of the New Year meet in Tokyo.

And the yokozuna made no mistake at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, getting both arms around Hakuho (12-3) and twisting him around and out of the dohyo with a well executed arm-bar throw.

Asashoryu's 13th victory of the tournament secured his 22nd Emperor's Cup and first title in four meets.

It also ruined Hakuho's hopes of becoming only the sixth wrestler since the establishment of the six-tournament system in 1958 to win four consecutive titles.

"I love it in Osaka and wanted to turn the disappointment (of defeat at the New Year meet) into the happiness of winning here," said Asashoryu.

"I tried to do my best and make an effort and the effort I made is thanks to the fans that have supported me from the first day to the last here," added Asashoryu.

"(The two defeats show) there are still things that I am lacking and I want to continue to polish my skills at the next tournament."

In an all ozeki matchup, Kotomitsuki shrugged off a flurry of slaps and thrusts to see off Chiyotaikai and secure a winning record.

News photo
Yokozuna Asashoryu, at left, receives the Emperor's Cup on Sunday after winning the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka, the 22nd Emperor's Cup of his colorful career.

Chiyotaikai, who came into the tournament with his rank on the line for a record-tying 11th time, also finished 8-7.

Elsewhere, Kokkai, who hails from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, wrapped up an impressive tournament with a 12th win after flooring ozeki Kaio (8-7).

Fifth-ranked Kokkai was rewarded for his efforts by winning the Fighting Spirit Prize, one of three prizes the Japan Sumo Association gives to makuuchi-division wrestlers on the final day of a tournament.

"I'm really pleased to get 12 wins," said Kokkai. "I was really up for it at this meet."

Estonian Baruto also finished with 12 wins by tearing down former ozeki Miyabiyama (7-8), who had initially been awarded the win before ringside judges reversed the decision in Baruto's favor.

Seventh-ranked Baruto was given the Fighting Spirit Prize, while Tochiozan forced out crowd favorite Takamisakari (10-5) to finish 11-4 and pick up the Technique Prize.

"I didn't think I would get this prize so I am pleased," said Tochiozan. "I was able to wrestle offensively and hopefully I can do well at the next tournament."

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku was awarded the Outstanding Performance Prize after finishing with a victory over feisty komusubi Kisenosato. Both men closed with 8-7 marks.



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