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Monday, Jan. 21, 2013

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Mr. Perfect: Harumafuji takes down Gagamaru at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday. KYODO

Harumafuji stays ahead of pack at New Year basho


By DAVE HUESTON
Kyodo

Yokozuna Harumafuji gave Gagamaru a public flogging to remain the only unbeaten man standing after eight days at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.

The Mongolian livewire continued to tame his detractors who have suggested he doesn't have the right stuff to remain at sumo's highest rank, waylaying into the sekiwake with a high-voltage attack to improve to 8-0 as the second week of this year's first major basho kicked off.

Rival yokozuna Hakuho, meanwhile, picked off Brazilian Kaisei to remain hot in pursuit one off the pace at 7-1 along with rank-and-filer Takarafuji as he zeroes in on his second consecutive Emperor's Cup and 24th overall title.

It was the second sell-out crowd in as many days at Ryogoku Kokugikan, and Harumafuji did not disappoint in the finale, smashing Gagamaru back with a quicksilver flash of thrusts to the head before using the 212-kg wrestler's momentum to pull him to the dirt surface.

"I stay focused day by day, and the results will follow. Today's bout is over, so now I just refocus on tomorrow. I feel comfortable with how I'm wrestling now," said Harumafuji, who faces sekiwake Goeido on Monday.

Harumafuji, who got off to a lackluster start in his yokozuna debut with a 9-6 mark, including losing his last five bouts, appears to have put that debacle firmly behind him.

In the match prior, Hakuho, who expressed grief over the death of legendary yokozuna Taiho a day before — a man he considered to be his father in sumo — was back in destruction mode. He sent Kaisei sprawling with a powerful overarm throw after clinching the bigger man's mawashi with his left hand right out of the blocks.

"I thought a lot about him last night. I drank a little and I felt a little better," said Hakuho, who will fight Baruto on Monday. "He was this country's treasure, so of course I feel sad, but I feel like I need to accept his loss and perform my best sumo. This is a good experience to go through."

Like Hakuho, Harumafuji said he paid his respects to Taiho at a wake for the sumo legend, whose 32 tournament championships are the most in sumo history.

"He was a great yokozuna. I would like to have my own target for tournament championships and go for it," said Harumafuji.

Mongolian Kakuryu was the lone ozeki casualty of the day.

Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu (5-3) wasted little time with Tochiozan (3-5), sending the komusubi out from behind after pulling him off-balance once to pick his fifth win. It was Kotooshu's 500th career victory, 429 of which have come in the elite makuuchi division.

Goeido (5-3) capitalized on Kakuryu's cowardice (5-3). When the ozeki retreated immediately after the initial charge, the sekiwake rammed him over in a nonstop shoving attack.

Kisenosato (6-2) muscled out Shohozan (2-6), getting inside for a firm grip on his opponent's mawashi before escorting him over the edge in a textbook frontal force-out.

Kotoshogiku (5-3) tried to shove Toyonoshima (3-5) straight over, but switched gears midway to dump his opponent with a thrust-down technique.

Estonian Baruto manhandled Aminishiki, knocking his opponent back with a fierce elbow at the tachiai before dispensing with him with a rapid fire of thrusts to earn his fifth win. The Estonian goliath needs to win five of his final seven bouts for a return to the ozeki rank at the March tourney.

In an early bout, former ozeki Miyabiyama suffered the ignominy of losing his eighth in a row for make-koshi, when he was pushed straight over the edge by Fujiazuma (4-4).



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