FUKUOKA – Mongolian grand champion Asashoryu survived a scare to maintain his perfect record entering the final stretch of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Wednesday.
Asashoryu (11-0) stayed on track for an unprecedented seventh straight Emperor’s Cup after withstanding the threat from Tamanoshima at the edge of the ring before toppling the top-ranked maegashira with a sudden burst of power at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.
Asashoryu uncharacteristically backpedaled straight from the face-off but did not allow Tamanoshima (6-5) to add the finishing touch while getting inside with a right-hand belt grip and twisting him down on his back.
Asashoryu, who has lost only five bouts this year, is now one win away from matching the record of 82 wins in a year set by former yokozuna Kitanoumi in 1978.
Asashoryu and Kitanoumi share the record with five tournament titles in a year. A victory here in Fukuoka will make the 25-year-old from Ulan Bator the only wrestler ever to win all six meets in a year.
Bulgarian sekiwake Kotooshu rebounded from his loss Tuesday to top-ranked maegashira Tamanoshima to beat Kokkai for his eighth win and stay in the hunt for promotion to sumo’s second-highest rank.
After a fierce exchange of slaps, Kotooshu seized control of the match with a belt grip and crouched forward to shove out his opponent from the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
In the autumn tourney in September, Kotooshu lost to Asashoryu in a championship playoff but finished with an impressive 13-2 record. Japan Sumo Association Chairman Kitanoumi has said the 22-year-old needs at least 10 wins this time out to be considered for promotion to ozeki.
In other key bouts, ozeki Chiyotaikai remained two wins off the pace after knocking Kotomitsuki virtually out of title contention with a well-timed slap that sent the sekiwaki sprawling on the dohyo.
Chiyotaikai (9-2) emerged the only closest challenger to Asashoryu after rank-and-filer Jumonji fell to his third loss, while Kotomitsuki slipped to a record of 7-4 with his third loss in as many days, stalling what had been a strong start.
Local favorite Kaio delighted the crowd as he escaped from the danger of losing his ozeki rank with his eighth win after a powerful belt-grip throw against 19-year-old Kisenosato (4-7).