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Monday, Jan. 10, 2011

News photo
Wing and a prayer: Hakuho locks onto Kakuryu's arm on his way to victory on the first day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo on Sunday. KYODO PHOTO

Yokozuna Hakuho makes flying start to New Year basho


By DAVE HUESTON
Kyodo News

Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho kicked off his campaign with a bang Sunday, handily disposing of countryman Kakuryu on the first day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

Hakuho made short work of Kakuryu, grabbing a wayward arm after the faceoff before shoving the komusubi over the ridge in a matter of seconds at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

"Today I did a fair job. I am relieved," said Hakuho. "My opponent came in low and I saw his arm hanging there and just went with the flow. I am happy that I could perform my sumo under the same roof where we were greeting the Imperial Couple," he said.

Having put firmly behind him the disappointment of coming just six shy of the Futabayama's all-time record of 69 consecutive wins at the Kyushu basho in November, Hakuho got off to a fresh start to the new year as he aims to become only the third man in history to win six consecutive meets.

Taiho achieved the feat twice while Asashoryu holds the record with seven straight.

Last year, Hakuho became the first wrestler ever to win four consecutive meets with 15-0 records. The lone yokozuna is seeking his 18th Emperor's Cup here.

Baruto was the lone loser at sumo's second-highest rank of ozeki.

Baruto went on an all-out rampage, trying to use his beefy shoves to blast out Toyonoshima but the diminutive No. 1 maegashira pulled the Estonian giant off balance by the neck for the win.

Toyonoshima went 14-1 before losing to Hakuho in a playoff on the final day of the Kyushu meet.

"I am very happy that I was able to perform well in my first bout of the New Year. My body is moving well. I was able to get a well-timed slap down in the end. I want to be able to say that I had nothing but good things happen to me at the end of this year," Toyonoshima said.

Bulgarian Kotooshu dodged a bullet when Aminishiki deployed a shoulder technique to send the ozeki flying in the air but his opponent stepped over the edge first as the sell-out crowd let out a collective gasp.

Mongolian Harumafuji kept a low center of gravity as he powered out second-ranked Georgian Tochinoshin to move a step toward to saving his ozeki rank.

Harumafuji faces demotion for the first time after pulling out in Kyushu with a right ankle injury.



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