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Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010

Asashoryu, Hakuho on collision course for title

Kyodo News

Yokozuna Asashoryu and Hakuho both registered ninth victories to turn the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament into a two-horse race Tuesday after Estonian sekiwake Baruto's winning streak ended with a surprise defeat to Toyonoshima.

News photo
Winning form: Asashoryu (left) forces Takekaze out of the raised ring Tuesday in the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament. KYODO PHOTO

After grabbing the limelight with convincing wins over Hakuho and four ozeki, Baruto (8-2) finally came a cropper and squandered his share of the lead after losing his balance and allowing top-ranked maegashira Toyonoshima (4-6) to bundle him out at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Baruto admitted after Monday's win over Kotooshu that the pressure was starting to take its toll. With Asashoryu up next, the towering sekiwake will now need to produce something special to stand a realistic chance of becoming only the second European grappler to win the Emperor's Cup.

His defeat to Baruto well behind him, Hakuho put on another sumo clinic and had little trouble in railroading komusubi Kotoshogiku (4-6) before Asashoryu underlined his title credentials in the day's finale.

Asashoryu was onto Takekaze's belt like grease lightning and the 24-time Emperor's Cup winner was never in danger from that point onward, comfortably shunting the No. 4 maegashira out to the sixth loss.

Baruto shares second place with rank-and-filers Aminshiki and Hakuba, who posted wins over Aran (7-3) and Kitataiki (7-3), respectively.

In an all-ozeki matchup, Kaio escaped Harumafuji's clutches and slapped the Mongolian down for a sixth win. Harumafuji dropped to 7-3.

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