Grand champion Hakuho tamed ozeki Kotooshu in a relentless attack while yokozuna rival Asashoryu knocked off Aminishiki to maintain a share of the lead on the 12th day of action at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Thursday.
Hakuho and Asashoryu improved to 11-1 while rank-and-filer Kakuryu is chasing the two leaders with a 10-2 record. Seventh-ranked maegashira Takekaze and 10th-ranked maegashira Kyokutenho are two off the pace at 9-3.
In the day’s penultimate bout at Ryogoku Kokugikan, Hakuho was the picture of efficiency, shoving Kotooshu off balance with a series of quick shoves before dumping the Bulgarian ozeki to the dohyo surface with a sure-fire beltless arm throw. Kotooshu (7-5) remained one win away from easing his relegation worries.
Asashoryu, back at the Tokyo meet from a two-tournament ban, snapped a two-bout losing streak to Aminishiki, improving to 12-4 in career bout against the sekiwake.
In the day’s final match, Asashoryu showed a concentrated effort from start to finish, moving in quickly for a firm left-handed grip before driving the sekiwake over the straw bales in a lopsided affair. Aminishiki fell to 5-7.
Asashoryu suffered a defeat to Kisenosato on the second day while Hakuho bounced back with a victory Wednesday from a loss to Ama on the 10th day, putting both men in a collision course as the 15-day meet winds down.
Asashoryu has a chance to win his 22nd Emperor’s Cup title, a distinction that would put him in a tie for fourth on the all-time list with former yokozuna Takanohana. Hakuho is shooting for his third straight title and sixth overall.
In the ozeki rank, veteran Kaio picked up a majority of wins with a textbook frontal takeout of Kyokutenho, who saw his slim title hopes all but fade with a third defeat.
Kotomitsuki took his time to gain leverage before grinding out Mongolian Asasekiryu to improve to 7-5 while leaving his opponent with an 8-4 record.