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Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008

Hakuho takes sole lead with four days to go

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) With one unstoppable charge, yokozuna Hakuho grabbed sole possession of the lead in his bid for a third consecutive title at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Wednesday.

News photo
Brute force: Ama and Chiyotaikai lock horns at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Wednesday. Ama won the bout to stay one victory behind leader Hakuho. KYODO PHOTO

Hakuho, who captured his eighth Emperor's Cup at the autumn meet in September, manhandled Estonian giant Baruto to improve his slate to a 10-1 record with just four days remaining in the action at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.

Baruto had been in the zone, winning eight straight since losing his first two bouts, but the yokozuna was in no mood for child's play as he his dug deep into the sandy surface before using his almighty right-handed grip to subdue the newly promoted sekiwake.

Hakuho is the hands-down favorite to bring home the tournament hardware in the absence of injury-hit Asashoryu. Sekiwake Ama and Miyabiyama are one behind the yokozuna with 9-2 marks.

Miyabiyama retreated a step in the title race after he was knocked out of a share of the lead in a defeat to Kisenosato, who improved to 8-3.

The former ozeki, who is aiming for his first championship title, never got his trademark thrusting attack rolling and was shoved over from behind when he attempted to dodge to the side.

Ama, however, took a big step forward with a convincing win over ozeki Chiyotaikai in the penultimate bout. Ama never gave Chiyotaikai (6-5) a peek in, quickly wrapping both hands around the ozeki's waist and charging him over the edge.

Ama needs at least 11 wins here to reach the 33 wins over three straight tournaments necessary to be considered for promotion to sumo's second rank. He will face his toughest test in a meeting with Hakuho on Thursday.

Perennial disappointment Kotooshu (5-6) got another boost of confidence with a second straight win after, pushing out Asasekiryu (3-8) after an exchange of hard slaps with the No. 5 maegashira.

The Bulgarian ozeki is once again struggling to post a majority of wins at the 15-day meet.

Kotomitsuki picked a win by default after Kakuryu (5-6) withdrew with an injured knee and features in a group of seven wrestlers with 8-3 records.

Crowd favorite Takamisakari gave his fans a thrill by muscling out Tokitenku (6-5) to post his eighth victory for a majority of wins for the first time since the spring meet in March.



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