Asa wins battle of yokozuna, 21st title


Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu bowled over newly promoted yokozuna Hakuho to capture his 21st Emperor’s Cup Sunday on the final day at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.

Asashoryu came back from an opening-day defeat to win 14 straight bouts and claimed his first title in three tournaments after having to take a back seat to countryman Hakuho.

In the finale, Asashoryu moved in for a right-handed belt grip and muscled his rival over the edge in a matter of seconds at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.

“I’ve never gone through an experience like this before. I had to go through some bumps in the road this time,” Asashoryu said. “I haven’t been in the best condition health-wise but I knew I had to give it my all to win the title.” It was the first time since the 2002 autumn basho that yokozuna faced off against each other in the curtain closer of the Nagoya meet, which had its eighth sellout crowd — the first time that has happened in seven years.

Hakuho, who was promoted to sumo’s ultimate rank after winning back-to-back titles in the two previous meets, saw his hopes for a title victory dashed with a third loss on the penultimate day and finished his yokozuna debut with a mediocre 11-4 record.

Kotomitsuki, who all but secured his promotion to ozeki with a 13th win the previous day, was dropped to his second defeat to the disappointment of his Nagoya hometown fans when he lost a confrontation with Kisenosato, who improved to 11-4.

Kisenosato was quicker out of the crouch, catching the sekiwake by surprise with a hard charge at the faceoff, before swatting his opponent forward for a loss.