Home > Sports > Sumo
  print button email button

Monday, Jan. 26, 2009

Asashoryu takes title

Yokozuna caps triumphant return with playoff win

Kyodo News

Asashoryu floored his critics with a gratifying body blow Sunday, outmuscling fellow Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho in a dramatic championship playoff to win the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

News photo
Back on top: Asashoryu exults after beating Hakuho in a championship playoff to win the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday. KYODO PHOTO

Hakuho had the odds stacked against him after a loss on the 10th day to Harumafuji left him trailing Asashoryu by one win heading into the final bout of regulation at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

But he capitalized on a momentary lapse in concentration by Asashoryu and sent him backpedaling out of the ring to leave both yokozuna with 14-1 marks and force a playoff.

However, Asashoryu regrouped and came roaring back in the playoff, shaking and shoving Hakuho out to win his 23rd Emperor's Cup and deny his opponent a fourth straight title in the process.

"I wanted another crack at him (Hakuho) and in a way I felt a bit more relaxed after losing the first bout," said Asashoryu.

"I stayed really focused and feel like the old Asashoryu is back."

Victory marked a dramatic revival in fortunes for Asashoryu, who has endured an injury-plagued six months and missed part or all of the previous three tournaments with an injured left elbow.

The 28-year-old came into the New Year meet with his career and reputation on the line and a dismal showing would have increased pressure on him to bow out of Japan's centuries-old sport.

"I'm back, Asashoryu has come back," the teary-eyed yokozuna said after being presented with the trophy by Prime Minster Taro Aso, triggering wild cheers around the arena.

"It's been a long hard journey back. At one point I didn't think I would be on this stage and I am glad I decided to wrestle. I'll keep trying my best."

In other bouts, Baruto was all smiles after closing with a ninth win, the Estonian giant scooping up Harumafuji by the thigh and plopping him outside the straw bales.

Harumafuji, who dropped five of his first six bouts, finished a roller coaster debut at sumo's second rank of ozeki on 8-7.

Bulgarian Kotooshu (10-5) claimed ozeki bragging rights by forcing out Kaio (8-7), while Chiyotaikai (8-7) deployed a series of trademark slaps to dismantle third-ranked Goiedo.



Back to Top

About us |  Work for us |  Contact us |  Privacy policy |  Link policy |  Registration FAQ
Advertise in japantimes.co.jp.
This site has been optimized for modern browsers. Please make sure that Javascript is enabled in your browser's preferences.
The Japan Times Ltd. All rights reserved.