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Monday, March 12, 2012

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One down: Baruto throws Gagamaru on the first day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka on Sunday. KYODO

Baruto starts promotion bid in style


OSAKA — Estonia-born Baruto launched his bid for promotion to sumo's ultimate rank on full octane on the opening day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament Sunday, the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan.

A full crowd was in attendance at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium for the first spring basho to be held in two years after last year's tourney was cancelled due to a match-fixing scandal, and Baruto was ever the showman in a ransacking of Georgian komusubi Gagamaru.

Baruto, who won his first career title with an impressive 14-1 record at the New Year meet in January, held Gagamura at bay with a grip on the mawashi before dumping his opponent with a powerful overarm throw.

The jolly giant will need to win back-to-back titles or at least stay in contention in the title race for a realistic shot at promotion.

Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho celebrated his 27th birthday with a win over Tochiozan, taking a step forward in his bid for his 22nd career Emperor's Cup — a feat that would tie him with former yokozuna Takanohana for fifth on the all-time list.

The day's finale, however, did not go as planned as Tochiozan got an arm inside and almost ruined the lone yokozuna's birthday bash before Hakuho used a thrust-down technique near the edge for a narrow escape.

Kotoshogiku, who had an unflattering 8-7 showing last time out, wasted little time on sourpuss Yoshikaze, wrapping his massive arms around his opponent before depositing No. 2 maegashira over the ridge.

But fellow Japanese ozeki Kisenosato was the only one of sumo's second-highest rank to bite the dust when he was sent backpedaling over the edge by Tochinowaka after an ineffectual throat grab.

"I just thought about charging forward," said Tochinowaka. "I kept my feet in motion and before I knew it, I had him on the ropes. I want to keep fighting like this every day."

Mongolian ozeki Harumafuji steamrolled Myogiryu in the pair's first-ever matchup, deploying an overarm throw on the ring's edge to topple the top-ranked maegashira into the ringside seats.

Bulgarian Kotooshu got into the winner's column, moving forward in a quick motion to barge out Tokitenku.

Mongolian sekiwake Kakuryu, who can gain a foothold for a bid at ozeki with a strong performance here, got off to a turbo start, wrangling out countryman Kyokutenho.

Aminishiki tossed down Georgia-born Tochinoshin in a rematch after the first bout was too close to call.

Czech-born Takanoyama, who weighs in at just 96 kg — scrawny for a sumo wrestler — proved to be a pushover against Shotenro in the day's opening bout as he retreated over the straw bales without a struggle.

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