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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hakuho secures 10th Emperor's Cup title

OSAKA (AP) Undefeated yokozuna Hakuho won his 10th career title without ever having to lift a pinkie on the 14th day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Saturday.

News photo
Happy moment: Yokozuna Hakuho pauses to hold a sea bream after clinching his 10th Emperor's Cup on the 14th day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka on Saturday. KYODO PHOTO

The title was secured when Mongolian yokozuna rival Asashoryu fell to a third defeat at the hands of Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu in the penultimate bout at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium.

Hakuho left Asashoryu in his wake, improving to an insurmountable 14-0 record after beating ozeki Kaio and now will aim to finish the 15-day meet with a perfect record on Sunday.

It was a sweet but anticlimactic victory after Hakuho lost to Asashoryu in a playoff championship on the final day of the New Year meet in January.

"I was aiming for the 10th career title, so I am really happy," said the 24-year-old Hakuho. "I really had to work hard for this and trained a lot for this meet. I feel this is a different victory for me because I went out to get it."

Asashoryu, who was denied a 24th career title, appeared to have lost his motivation with the knowledge that his rival could claim the title outright by beating battle-worn ozeki Kaio in the final.

Normally fierce off the charge, Asashoryu let Kotooshu in quickly for a firm belt grip and the Bulgarian ozeki proceeded to muscle the yokozuna over the edge in a matter of seconds. Kotooshu improved his slate to 9-5.

The final bout was no contest as Hakuho shot Kaio with a barrage of slaps before wrestling him over the edge in textbook fashion. Kaio slipped to 8-6.

In other bouts, Estonian Baruto (7-7) grappled with Kisenosato (5-9) in an all-sekiwake battle before tossing his opponent into the ringside seats to move one away from a majority of wins.

Mongolian Harumafuji bulldozed out fellow ozeki Chiyotaikai to improve to 9-5, bettering his 8-7 mark in his debut at sumo's second-highest rank in January. Chiyotaikai fell to an unflattering 2-12.

Ozeki Kotomitsuki, who escaped relegation with a win the previous day, also bit the dust when he was toppled over the edge by rank-and-filer Takekaze, leaving both men at 8-6.

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