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Monday, Jan. 14, 2013

Harumafuji makes flying start to New Year basho


By DAVE HUESTON
Kyodo

Yokozuna Harumafuji dispensed with Tochiozan with minimal fuss on Sunday, getting off to a crackerjack start on the opening day of the 2013 New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

News photo
Easy does it: Harumafuji (rear) pushes Tochiozan out of the ring at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday. KYODO

Harumafuji, who is trying to rebound from a 9-6 debacle in his debut at sumo's highest rank at the Kyushu basho in November, kept his opponent at bay with a shoving attack before getting his right hand around for an outside grip and showing the komusubi the exit.

"I just focused on my sumo," said Harumafuji, who leaned in for his favored right-leaning grip before twisting Tochiozan into position for the takeout. "It wasn't a bad start."

In front of a packed house and a feral crackle in the air at Ryogoku Kokugikan, rival yokozuna Hakuho followed suit in the day's final bout with a push-down demolition of Shohozan to start his campaign off with a win.

Hakuho went 14-1 in Kyushu en route to his 23rd career title and his first Emperor's Cup in four meets, and can match former yokozuna Kitanoumi with another title at the 15-day meet.

"This was a good start for me. I am glad I could show all the fans who came out today my sumo. It was a good result," said Hakuho, who fended off a two-handed attack by Shohozan before crushing the komusubi to the dirt surface with his right hand.

In a meltdown of epic proportions, Harumafuji suffered the ignominy of becoming the first wrestler in his yokozuna debut to lose his final five bouts at the Kyushu meet.

The Mongolian dynamo was a shell of the wrestler who won back-to-back tournaments with 15-0 marks at the autumn and Nagoya meets.

Asked if he was worried about the losing streak entering the first day, Harumafuji said, "Not at all. I was totally focused on today's match. That's all I can do is be ready to fight every day."

Sumo's top brass have hinted that Harumafuji would be forced into an involuntary early retirement if he cannot notch double-digit wins at the Tokyo meet.

In other bouts of note, Baruto, who is hoping to regain his ozeki status with at least 10 wins here, tossed down Toyohibiki with a powerful right-handed overarm throw, while fellow sekiwake Goeido deployed a beltless arm throw against Brazilian Kaisei.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku made mincemeat out of Kyokutenho with a lightning-fast frontal force-out.

Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu absorbed a fierce charge from Toyonoshima before toppling his opponent over the edge.

Mongolian ozeki Kakuryu administered a pulling underarm throw on Myogiryu, while Kisenosato made it four for four for sumo's second highest rank with a frontal push-down of Aminishiki.

It was the first time Ryogoku sold out tickets on the first day of a Tokyo meet since the 2010 New Year basho.



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