FUKUOKA – Yokozuna Asashoryu survived a scare to maintain his perfect record and ozeki Kaio put his promotion hopes in jeopardy with his second loss at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Tuesday.
Asashoryu (10-0) kept his lead with five days left in the meet at Fukuoka Kokusai Center by executing a seemingly desperate attempt to pull down fifth-ranked maegashira Shimotori (2-8), whose powerful thrust forced the Mongolian grand champion to backpedal toward the ring’s edge.
Asashoryu, aiming to win his ninth career title and become the first wrestler since 1986 to win five Emperor’s Cups in a single year, now has a one-win advantage over sekiwake Wakanosato and top-maegashira Hakuho.
Kaio (8-2) suffered a major setback in his campaign to earn promotion to sumo’s highest rank at the hands of up-and-coming Hakuho (9-1) in a match between the closest pursuers of leader Asashoryu.
Kaio looked to have gotten the upper hand early in the bout but Hakuho showed tremendous resiliency as the 19-year-old Mongolian deftly prevented the ozeki from holding belt grips with a string of slaps and thrusts and eventually muscled him over the straw.
One more loss will effectively dash Kaio’s hopes. Japan Sumo Association Chairman Kitanoumi made it clear Monday that the 32-year-old Tomozuna stable wrestler, the winner of the autumn meet, needs 13 wins or more to be considered for promotion.
Wakanosato (9-1) remained tied for second after shoving out third-ranked maegashira Kyokutenho (2-8) in a convincing fashion after taking full control of the bout by holding the Mongolian’s body with tight arm grips.
In other major bouts, struggling ozeki Chiyotaikai fell to komusubi Kotomitsuki to leave his record at 5-5, and sekiwake Miyabiyama came within one win of securing a winning record by yanking down No. 5 maegashira Kotonowaka.
Second-ranked Kokkai fell to 4-6 after being sent tumbling out of the ring by komusubi Tochinonada (3-7).
Among maegashira winners were No. 10 Asasekiryu (4-6), who beat No. 15 Tokitenku (4-6) in a lengthy bout between the Mongolians that lasted six minutes, eight seconds, and No. 15 South Korean Kasugao (7-3).