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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Asashoryu, Hakuho lead the way

OSAKA (Kyodo) Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu and Hakuho held off challenges by rank-and-filers and picked up their second wins with ease at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Monday.

Asashoryu, who brushed off retirement talk to lift an Emperor's Cup for the first time in five meets in January, wasted little time from the faceoff to barge top-ranked maegashira Kakuryu out of the ring with unstoppable shoves and arm thrusts at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium.

Minutes later, Hakuho swiftly got his left hand on the front side of the belt of Hokutoriki, the other No. 1 maegashira, at the outset of the day's final bout and bulldozed him over the edge of the ring into the front row of spectators' seat. Kakuryu dropped 1-1 and Hokutoriki is 0-2.

Both Asashoryu and Hakuho have lived up to expectations, at least thus far in the 15-day tournament, that the archrivals would lock horns again after Asashoryu's memorable comeback victory in a championship playoff at the New Year tournament.

In stark contrast to the strong performances of the in-form yokozuna, there are no undefeated ozeki wrestlers after just two days.

Kotomitsuki appeared on course for a second win but a momentary lapse of concentration allowed No. 3 maegashira Miyabiyama to send him sprawling onto the sandy surface with a well-timed pull, leaving both at 1-1.

Kotomitsuki is fighting to avoid demotion from the ozeki rank after pulling out late in the New Year tourney with a 2-10 record because of an ankle injury.

Ozeki Harumafuji pulled off a great-escape act against sekiwake Kisenosato to get his first win of the spring tournament.

Harumafuji was about to be put over the straw ridge from behind before turning around with an agile move to send an off-balance Kisenosato stepping out of the ring. Kisenosato fell to his second defeat.

At the New Year Meet in January, Harumafuji, formerly known as Ama, made an 0-4 start before hitting his stride to secure a winning record of 8-7 in his debut at sumo's second-highest rank.

Kotooshu allowed second-ranked maegashira Tochiozan to lunge forward straight from the faceoff for a surprisingly lopsided force-out win.



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