Sole leader Hakuho and yokozuna rival Asashoryu remained on a collision course at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament after both came through their bouts in contrasting styles on Monday.
Hakuho (9-0) flipped over Wakanosato to preserve his one-win advantage but Asashoryu (8-1) had to dodge another bullet to stay in touch with the front-running yokozuna with six days of the meet remaining at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
Another Mongolian, rank-and-filer Kyokutenho (8-1), clung on to his share of second although the title race will probably turn into a two-horse affair between the yokozuna duo as the 15-day basho winds down.
Seeking a third consecutive Emperor’s Cup, Hakuho and Wakanosato (3-6) locked horns following the charge but the yokozuna spotted an opening and turned the former sekiwake over with a textbook arm-lock throw.
However Asashoryu, back on the raised ring after serving a two-tournament ban, looked in trouble early on after taking a blow to the neck but recovered after a stalemate to send Ama (5-4) packing with a trademark overarm throw.
Asashoryu was hit with the ban last summer after he was caught playing soccer in Mongolia. He played even though he was supposedly carrying injuries that allowed him to sit out a regional sumo tournament.
The suspension triggered a stress-related illness and Asashoryu spent until the end of November in his homeland receiving treatment for the illness and other physical injuries.
In an earlier match, 10th-ranked Kyokutenho (8-1) snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and secured a winning record by seeing off Toyohibiki.
Toyohibiki (2-7) had Kyokutenho up against the straw ridge with a vice like neck grip but paid for failing to finish the job. Kyokutenho managed to squirm free and turned the tables on the No. 8 maegashira and march him out from behind.
“I have put on weight so maybe that is a factor (in my good form),” said Kyokutenho. “I thought I had done enough to keep my feet in the ring today.”
“I’m not sure if I can remain in the title race but I will just try to win each bout as it comes,” said the Mongolian.
Elsewhere, Kotooshu (6-3) edged closer to the majority of wins he needs to stay at sumo’s second-highest rank of ozeki, the Bulgarian quickly latching on to Dejima’s (2-7) belt and hauling him down by the back of the neck.
Kaio (6-3) had too much power for struggling Goeido and barged the third-ranked maegashira out to post a third win in a row. Goeido dropped to 2-7.
Kotomitsuki (4-5) then completed a rare sweep for ozeki when he posted his first win in four matches with a force-out victory over Tochinonada (2-7).
Komusubi Kotoshogiku withdrew from the meet earlier Monday with a knee injury but his stablemaster Sadogatake hinted at the possibility of a return before the 15-day basho wraps up on Sunday.
Kotoshogiku hurt his right knee Sunday in his defeat to Hakuho and will require 10 days’ rest.
Sadogatake said, “He (Kotoshogiku) has been complaining of pain since this morning but he still wants to wrestle so we will see how he is after a couple of days.”
Komusubi Kotoshogiku withdrew from the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Monday due to a knee injury.
Kotoshogiku hurt his right knee Sunday in his defeat to Mongolian grand champion Hakuho on the eighth day of the 15-day meet and will require 10 days rest.
Kotoshogiku, who saw his record drop to 6-2 after Sunday’s loss.
Stablemaster Sadogatake hinted Kotoshogiku could return to the raised ring before the end of the tournament.
“He (Kotoshogiku) has been complaining of pain since this morning but he wants to wrestle so we will see how he is after a couple of days.”