Asashoryu beats Hakuho for 16th Cup


Mongolian grand champion Asashoryu exacted swift revenge over sekiwake and countryman Hakuho by winning a championship playoff to clinch his first title of the year at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.

News photo
Yokozuna Asashoryu defeats Hakuho in the playoff bout on the final day of the Spring Grand Sumo
Tournament at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium.

Asashoryu watched sekiwake Hakuho lose his share of the overnight lead but was unable to capitalize on his compatriot’s defeat to Kaio and was blown away by Tochiazuma, leaving both men with 13-2 records in regulation on the final day of action in Osaka.

But Asashoryu, beaten by Hakuho earlier in the tournament, held off a spirited challenge from the sekiwake in the playoff and floored him with an underarm throw to secure a 16th overall title.

Asashoryu won a record seven straight tournaments in a row before his streak was ended at the New Year meet in January as Tochiazuma claimed the title.

“It was a disappointing to miss out on the title at the last tournament but I came to Osaka and wanted to respond to the warm support I got from the fans here,” said Asashoryu.

“I felt I got stronger and stronger as the tournament progressed and I am delighted to win here again,” he said.

Earlier Hakuho, who is virtually assured of promotion to ozeki for the summer meet in May, appeared nervous at the “tachi-ai” and Kaio quickly took control before working his opponent over the bales for a rank-saving win.

But Tochiazuma (12-3) ensured a dramatic climax when he burst out of his blocks and sent Asashoryu out of the ring and into the playoff.

Hakuho missed out on the main prize but his excellent performance here earned him the Outstanding Performance Prize for the third time.

Kaio (8-7) came into the tournament needing eight wins to make sure of keeping his ozeki rank. He had hinted at retirement if he failed to achieve that goal and was relegated to sekiwake.

In other bouts, Chiyotaikai, who has secured his place at ozeki for the next tournament, sent Bulgarian Kotooshu packing with a barrage of thrusts, leaving both ozeki with 9-6 records.

Komusubi Miyabiyama (10-5) closed with double-digit wins after thrusting out sixth-ranked Tokitenku (8-7) but komusubi debutant Russian Roho’s misery was compounded when he was barged out to an 11th loss by Futeno (6-9).

In earlier bouts, Wakanosato forced out Mongolian former komusubi Kyokushuzan as both wrapped up the meet with 11-4 records.

Kyokushuzan was awarded the Fighting Spirit prize, and along with onetime sekiwake Wakanosato can expect a big move up the rankings for the summer meet.

Second-ranked Ama, who sealed a winning record after marching out Kotomitsuki (8-7), won the Technique Prize for the second time, as did Hakuho, as Mongolians made a clean sweep of the special awards the Japan Sumo Association hands to makuuchi-division wrestlers on the final day of a tournament.

Crowd favorite Takamisakari finally stopped the rot when he sent Buyuzan (8-7) out from behind for his first win in six bouts but it proved scant consolation as the 11th-ranked maegashira finished with a 7-8 losing record.

Estonian Baruto wins juryo division

News photoEstonian wrestler Baruto slams down Takanowaka on the final day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

OSAKA (Kyodo) Estonian wrestler Baruto defeated Takanowaka at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday to become the first wrestler in 43 years to win the second-tier juryo division title with an unblemished record.

Baruto, 21, whose real name is Kaido Hoovelson, wrapped up his campaign by throwing down Takanowaka for his 15th win on the final day of the meet at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium. Former yokozuna Kitanofuji was the last wrestler to go unbeaten throughout the tournament in the juryo division in the Kyushu meet in 1963.

Baruto is set to win promotion to sumo’s elite makuuchi division when the rankings are released for the summer meet in May. Promotion would see him become the fifth European wrestler to compete in sumo’s top flight.

Kokkai, who hails from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, was the first wrestler from Europe to reach the makuuchi division, in which Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu and Russian brothers Roho and Hakurozan are currently competing.