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Friday, July 17, 2009

Harumafuji's chances of promotion crumble

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Ozeki Harumafuji was sent sprawling to a second defeat at the hands of Russian rank-and-filer Aran on Thursday, spelling the death sentence for his bid for promotion to yokozuna at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.

Harumafuji paid for an over-anxious charge and was abruptly swept into the ringside seats by the top-ranked maegashira, who sidestepped quickly after the face-off to secure his first win at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.

Harumafuji needed to win at least 13 bouts here to secure a nod for promotion to sumo's highest rank, but two defeats in just the first five days of the 15-day meet have already blown his chance. Nothing short of a title win could change his fortunes.

Yokozuna Hakuho, meanwhile, overpowered komusubi Kyokutenho to stay perfect in a share of the lead at 5-0 with fellow yokozuna Asashoryu and ozeki duo Kotomitsuki and Kotooshu.

Hakuho, who is seeking his 11th Emperor's Cup and first title in two meets, hardly broke a sweat as he muscled over Kyokutenho in the day's final bout. Kyokutenho slipped to 1-4.

Asashoryu went on an all-out blitz against winless Toyohibiki, staring down the No. 2 maegashira before the bout, before sending his opponent flying over the edge with a fierce barrage of shoves. The yokozuna is in the hunt for his 24th career title here.

It was a day of mixed fortunes for the ozeki rank.

Local favorite Kotomitsuki had to battle with all his might against Iwakiyama (1-4), but brought the No. 3 maegashira tumbling down with an overarm throw to the cheers of the crowd after the pair grappled at the ring's center.

But veteran Kaio (2-3) was shoved over the edge by upstart Kisenosato (4-1) after he attempted an ill-advised armbar maneuver against the sekiwake at the edge of the ring.

Bulgarian Kotooshu stayed in the title race with his Sadogatake stablemate Kotomitsuki with a fierce charge against Goeido (1-4), barreling the No. 1 maegashira over the edge.

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