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Monday, Sept. 20, 2010

Hakuho express keeps thundering onward


By DAVE HUESTON
Kyodo News

Hakuho is facing his greatest enemy ever now — himself.

News photo
Flat out: Hakuho hurls Kyokutenho to the ground at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo on Sunday. KYODO PHOTO

Sumo's lone yokozuna overpowered Mongolian countryman Kyokutenho on Sunday, extending his incredible winning streak to 55 bouts to inch closer to immortality in the pantheon of the ancient sport.

He improved to 8-0 at the 15-day Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament and shares the lead with Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu.

In the day's final at Ryogoku Kokugikan, Kyokutenho appeared to give himself a chance after countering the yokozuna's charge but Hakuho was as calm as ever before deploying a beltless arm throw for the win. Kyokutenho fell to 2-6.

If anyone can stop Hakuho, it will probably be up to the ozeki wrestlers on the last four days. He would likely meet Kaio, Baruto, Kotooshu and Harumafuji in that order.

Sekiwake Tochiozan, who gave the yokozuna trouble with his favored right-hand grip in pre-tournament training and would likely fight him on the 10th day, is also seen as a dark horse to end his run.

"Today was a new start for me. Yesterday I felt a sense of achievement. Today I wasn't very conscious of it," Hakuho said. "I was just wrestling as I usually do."

Hakuho's mark is the second best since the start of the Showa era (1926-1988). Former yokozuna Futabayama holds the all-time leading record of 69 straight wins, which he set from the seventh day of the 1936 spring meet until the third day of the 1939 spring meet.

Hakuho is bidding for his fourth consecutive title (16th overall) with a perfect 15-0 record, which would put him just seven wins shy of Futabayama's record at the Kyushu meet in November.

"Last night I had trouble getting to sleep. I was too excited. I am human like anyone else," he said laughing, adding that he drank a glass of champagne and some beer to celebrate.

Back in the ring, Kotooshu got his hands on Russian Aran's (2-6) mawashi and lifted his opponent once in the air before gently placing the sekiwake over the straw bales.

Estonian Baruto (7-1) wasted little time with Tochiozan (6-2), taking advantage of his superior arm reach for a belt grip and switched to a thrusting attack to send the sekiwake backpedaling into the ringside seats to remain one off the pace.

Mongolian Harumafuji (5-3), however, lost his second in a row when he was rolled to the dirt by Kotoshogiku (5-3), who deployed an armlock maneuver for his second ozeki kill following his victory over Kaio the previous day.



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