Yokozuna Asashoryu outfoxed countryman Kyokutenho to retain the lead with an undefeated record Tuesday, two wins ahead of closest rival Hakuho at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
In the day’s finale at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan, the Mongolian grand champion deployed a crafty leg sweep to earn his 10th straight win, putting him within spitting distance of his 10th career title with just five days remaining at the 15-day meet.
As the wrestlers braised each other after the face-off, Asashoryu used his free right hand to knock out the outstretched leg of his opponent, sending Kyokutenho into the splits and his fourth defeat.
Asashoryu is aiming to join sumo legends Taiho, Kitanoumi and Chiyonofuji as the only wrestlers to win the New Year meet for three years in a row since the establishment of the six-tourney system in 1958.
Meanwhile ozeki Kaio, who failed in his bid for promotion to yokozuna with a dismal performance here in Tokyo, forfeited his bout with sekiwake Miyabiyama (7-3) after pulling out of the meet with a shoulder injury.
It was a huge disappointment to his fans and the 32-year-old Tomozuna-stable wrestler, who will be in danger of losing his ozeki status at the spring tourney in March after ending on 4-6 with five rest days.
In another key bout, 19-year-old Mongolian Hakuho was poetry in motion as he calmly thwarted a turbocharge from Tosanoumi (4-6) and shoved the second-ranked maegashira over to earn his eighth win as a newly promoted komusubi.