FUKUOKA – Sekiwake Ama sent yokozuna Hakuho to a shock defeat Thursday, leaving both men in share of the lead with 10-2 records with just three days remaining at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.
Hakuho saw his bid for a third consecutive title take a dent while Ama improved his chances of gaining promotion to ozeki with a savvy display in the final bout at Fukuoka Kokusai Center. Ozeki Kotomitsuki, former ozeki Miyabiyama and rank-and-filer Yoshikaze are one behind the two leaders with three defeats.
“I just tried my best to get the jump at the face-off and control the bout,” said Ama whose battle against Hakuho was seen as his most important yet to be considered for promotion.
Facing his Mongolian countryman, Ama got a turbo jump and put his left hand inside for a belt grip before using his other hand to pull Hakuho forward onto all fours with an underarm technique.
Ama is just one win from the 11 he needs to reach the 33 wins over three straight tournaments necessary to be considered for promotion to sumo’s second rank.
“I am hoping that I can respond to my fans’ expectations,” Ama said.
Hakuho, who is seeking his ninth Emperor’s Cup, had been the odds-on favorite to bring home the tournament hardware in the absence of injury-hit Asashoryu but is now facing an uphill climb.
Kotomitsuki (9-3), meanwhile, made short work of Baruto (8-4) to remain in contention, shoving the Estonian sekiwake back after the face-off before using his left hand in a belt-pulling technique to toss his opponent to the dirt.