FUKUOKA – Mongolian grand champion Hakuho was hit with a shock first-day defeat at the hands of komusubi Kotoshogiku at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.
Hakuho, who is the sole yokozuna in the absence of suspension-hit Asashoryu, was sent out on the opening day in his second consecutive tournament after a sluggish jump at the face-off at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.
Kotoshogiku moved in quickly with a right-handed grip and steamed ahead as Hakuho inadvertently stepped over the ridge with one foot while attempting a throw.
Hakuho, who is gaining the reputation of a slow starter, lost to Ama on the first day of the autumn basho in September before rebounding to win his fourth career title.
In another upset, injury-plagued ozeki Kaio, who many believe is on the verge of retirement, was powered over the edge by Kisenosato after attempting an ill-advised side maneuver.
The 35-year-old faces demotion for a record 11th time and is fighting for his pride in front of his hometown fans.
In other key bouts, Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu yanked Miyabiyama off-balance after a short exchange of shoves after the face-off while ozeki Chiyotaikai hit Homasho with a barrage of his trademark thrusts before shoving out the No. 1 maegashira.
Kotomitsuki, who went 10-5 in his ozeki debut in September, was upset by Mongolian komusubi Ama, who charged full-throttle after the face-off and sent the ozeki over the ring’s straw bales. Kotomitsuki currently is suffering from gallstones and a right-ankle injury.
Popular No. 8 maegashira Takamisakari riled the crowd with pre-bout histrionics before disposing of Tamakasuga and then strutting back to the dressing room with his head cocked high.
Estonian giant Baruto got off to a solid start on his return to the elite division, lifting out Kasuganishiki, while Georgian wrestler Kokkai, sporting some new Elvis-like sideburns, crushed Russian wrestler Roho in a frontal attack.
Makuuchi debutant Wakanoho outlasted Russian compatriot Hakurozan, sending out his senior with a firm shove out after the pair came to a deadlock at the center of the ring. The 19-year-old got a nice round of applause from the crowd when he offered to help Hakurozan back into the ring after the match.
Yokozuna-in-exile Asashoryu, the winner of 21 career titles, is scheduled to return to the ring for the New Year meet in January. The wrestler was banned from both the autumn basho in September and the Kyushu meet for playing in a charity soccer match back in his native Mongolia, despite having claimed injuries that allowed him to sit out a regional tour.