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Monday, Sept. 15, 2008

Autumn basho begins with apology

Kyodo News

Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho and Asashoryu both got off to winning starts by beating their respective opponents on the first day of action at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.

News photo
Gloomy start: New Japan Sumo Association chairman Musashigawa is handed the Emperor's Cup on the first day of the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan on Sunday. KYODO PHOTO

But with sumo thrown into a state of turmoil over a recent alleged drug scandal involving three Russian wrestlers, attention was turned to damage control with newly appointed Japan Sumo Association chairman Musashigawa first apologizing to fans and promising a strict new regimen for wrestlers.

Wakanoho was arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana last month and expelled from sumo while brothers Roho and Hakurozan were fired from the traditional Japanese sport this month after both tested positive to marijuana use in detailed urine examinations.

Hakuho, who won the Nagoya meet in July with a spotless 15-0 record, is seeking his eighth overall title here.

In the day's final bout at Ryogoku Kokugikan, Hakuho wasted little sweat on countryman Asasekiryu, moving inside quickly for his favored right-handed grip before disposing of the komusubi over the edge in a matter of seconds.

Asashoryu, who missed most of the Nagoya basho with an elbow injury and is in the hunt for his 23rd Emperor's Cup, staved off a turbo charge from Estonian Baruto, getting his hands inside on his opponent's belt to pull the komusubi off-balance after the faceoff.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai stopped Kyokutenho dead in his tracks before swatting down the Mongolian No. 3 wrestler with relative ease for a first-day win.

Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu, meanwhile, bounced back from the brink of sudden defeat against Kisenosato, wrapping around his opponent for a firm underhanded grip and forcing out the No. 2 maegashira after being pushed close to the ring's edge.

Ozeki Kotomitsuki made a sluggish start out off the blocks against Miyabiyama but recovered nicely before thumping the top-ranked maegashira over the ridge for a convincing win.

But veteran ozeki Kaio could manage nothing of value against Kotoshogiku, who controlled the bout from start to finish before heaving his opponent over the edge in the only upset.

Mongolian sekiwake Ama got inside for a tight grip on Tochinonada before barreling out the No. 4 wrestler in a textbook frontal forceout.

With a spate of scandals, including the hazing-related death of a 17-year-old junior wrestler and Asashoryu's two-tournament ban last year for feigning the extent of his injuries in order to skip a regional summer tour, sumo officials have been searching for ways to clean up the sport.

Now the drug scandal has only made matters worse.



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