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Monday, Sept. 28, 2009
Asashoryu survives playoff to claim Cup
Asashoryu had to wait for a playoff against rival yokozuna Hakuho before getting his 29th birthday celebrations off with a bang, but pulled off the improbable to claim his 24th Emperor's Cup at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.
After losing the last bout in regulation against his rival to drop to his first defeat, Asashoryu came back to win his first title in four meets, matching yokozuna great Kitanoumi for third on the all-time list.
Yokozuna legends Taiho (32) and Chiyonofuji (31) are first and second, respectively.
Asashoryu and Hakuho finished tied at the 15-day meet with 14-1 records. Asashoryu's last championship win came when he beat Hakuho in another playoff at the New Year meet in January.
"I gave it everything I had. Before the meet I doubted whether I could compete but I just focused in every match and improved along the way," said Asashoryu, whose tournament preparations had been hampered by a right knee injury.
"I have been really hit with injuries lately and no matter how positive I am my body hasn't been able to keep up. I barely made it back. What a great birthday!" he said.
Hakuho, who was aiming for back-to-back titles and his 12th Emperor's Cup, allowed Asashoryu to get an underhanded frontal belt grip after the face-off and Asashoryu never relented before leaping in the air to twist Hakuho down with a beltless arm throw.
Asashoryu began the day with a perfect 14-0 mark and appeared to have the championship all but in the bag before mayhem broke out at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
Hakuho came blazing out of the charge, immediately sending Asashoryu backpedaling over the edge before tossing his opponent down with a powerful arm throw to force the playoff.
In other major bouts, Bulgarian Kotooshu got rival ozeki Harumafuji locked with his head almost touching the dirt before flipping his opponent over. Both men finished at 9-6.
Veteran Kaio gave Kotomitsuki a sumo clinic, tossing his opponent in an all-ozeki encounter to escape with his eighth win of the meet while leaving his opponent on 9-6.
Baruto, who won the Fighting Sprit Prize, grabbed Kisenosato (7-8) by the back of his "mawashi" belt before wheeling the sekiwake over the edge in a matter of seconds to pick up a 12th win.
Kakuryu, a Mongolian No. 3 maegashira who took the Technique Prize, weathered a fierce storm of slaps by Aminishiki before swatting the komusubi down at the ring's edge to finish on 11-4. Aminishiki ended his campaign at 7-8.