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Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009

Asashoryu still on course for 23rd Emperor's Cup

Kyodo News

Asashoryu inched ever closer to his 23rd Emperor's Cup on Friday, posting a no-nonsense win over Chiyotaikai to preserve his slender lead heading into the final weekend of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

News photo
Staying tuned: Hakuho beats ozeki Kotooshu to stay within one win of the undefeated and tournament-leading fellow yokozuna Asashoryu on Friday at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan. KYODO PHOTO

Asashoryu improved his record to a perfect 13-0 and remains on course for an intriguing final-day showdown with fellow Mongolian grand champion Hakuho, who kept up the chase with a 12th win at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

An immovable object in the day's next-to-last bout, Asashoryu calmly weathered a vicious attack from Chiyotaikai (7-6) to get both arms around the ozeki and send him down with a trademark beltless arm throw.

Asashoryu came into the 15-day meet with his career on the line after missing part or all of the last three tournaments because of a left elbow injury.

But the volatile yokozuna could complete a fairy tale comeback if he beats Kaio on Saturday, provided Hakuho, winner of the last three tourneys, fails to beat Chiyotaikai

Hakuho kept his title hopes alive by hauling down Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu (9-4) while it was also a good day for another Mongolian grappler being closely monitored here, ozeki Harumafuji.

Harumafuji, formerly Ama, finally moved into the winning column in his ozeki debut, flooring third-ranked Takekaze (5-8) with a routine overarm throw.

After losing five of his first six bouts Harumafuji (7-6) has started to look like the wrestler that put together a stellar 13-2 showing before defeat to Hakuho in a championship playoff at last November's Kyushu meet.

In sharp contrast, Baruto's alarming second-half slump in form showed no sign of abating as the Estonian sekiwake was barged out to a fifth consecutive loss at the hands of Kyokutenho. Both wrestlers have 7-6 marks.

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