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Monday, Nov. 24, 2008

Hakuho collects third straight title

Defeats Ama in playoff to capture trophy

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho overpowered countryman Ama in a playoff to win his third consecutive title at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.

News photo
Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho celebrates his ninth career Emperor's Cup victory with family and friends on Sunday after defeating Ama in a playoff at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament. Hakuho has now won three straight tournaments. KYODO PHOTOS

Wrapping up the final tournament of the year with a bang, Hakuho expended every ounce of energy as he sent the sekiwake sprawling to the dirt with an unstoppable overarm technique at Fukuoka Kokusai Center to win his ninth career Emperor's Cup.

Both wrestlers finished the meet with 13-2 records, but Hakuho was in no mood for games and got revenge against Ama for a loss on the 12th day to take home the tournament hardware in the absence of injury-hit yokozuna Asashoryu, who has a total of 22 Emperor's Cups and was forced to miss the Kyushu tourney with an injured elbow.

After the pair tussled for position, Hakuho hoisted the smaller man up twice and used his right hand to press down the back of Ama's neck as he executed a perfectly timed underarm throw.

"I lost to him before so I wanted to win this time. This was the last bout of the year, so it was important," Hakuho said.

"I lost on the first day of the meet and I felt a huge responsibility. I had a lot happen this year and I really wanted to finish off strong," said the 23-year-old Hakuho, who claimed four of the six titles this year.

Ama ensured himself of a promotion to ozeki with his 12th win against Kotomitsuki on the penultimate day.

Ama surpassed sumo's rough guideline of 33 wins in three consecutive tournaments to gain promotion to the second-highest rank.

The 24-year-old stumbled in the early going with two defeats but bounced back with a vengeance en route to beating Hakuho on the 12th day and three ozeki.

Ama failed to win his first career title but picked up a consolation fifth Technique Prize.

News photo
Title-clinching throw: Yokozuna Hakuho unleashes an upper-arm throw to sekiwake Ama in the championship playoff of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday at Fukuoka Kokusai Center. Hakuho and ozeki-bound Ama were tied at 13-2 after the 15-day tournament.

Ama wasted no time with gargantuan Baruto, pummeling the newly promoted sekiwake with a brilliant surge out of the blocks and knocking him over the edge in seconds to stay in front for the eventual playoff with Hakuho.

But as if throwing down the gauntlet, Hakuho was the picture of concentration in the day's final regulation bout against Kotomitsuki (9-6), getting his left hand inside for a belt grip before slamming the ozeki down with a powerful overarm throw.

Surprise package Yoshikaze (11-4), a No. 12 maegashira, fell out of the running for the title with a defeat at the hands of Kotoshogiku (9-6) but won his first Fighting Spirit Prize.

Fighting on the bubble, Bulgarian Kotooshu swatted down fellow ozeki Chiyotaikai to just make the grade in another unconvincing campaign at the 15-day meet.

Chiyotaikai also finished at 8-7.

Aran, a No. 10 maegashira who made his debut in the elite class, finished with a passing grade of 8-7 after losing his final match to Georgian Kokkai, who finished at 9-6.

No. 10 maegashira Bushuyama (8-7), another makuuchi debutant, shoved out Kimurayama (6-9) to also finish with a majority of wins.

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