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Asashoryu rolls on; Harumafuji scores first win

Kyodo News

Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu demolished third-ranked maegashira Takekaze to preserve his unbeaten start to the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Thursday.

Still showing no signs of cracking under the early strain, Asashoryu (5-0) patiently chipped away at Takekaze (2-3) and spotted an opening to complete the job with a well-worked overarm throw in the day’s penultimate bout at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

The 28-year-old has been solid if unspectacular in the first few days, although he was forced to walk a tightrope in Wednesday’s fortuitous win over Miyabiyama.

Title favorite and fellow yokozuna Hakuho squashed Yoshikaze (1-4) in the first meeting between the two and kept his share of the lead with Asashoryu, sekiwake Baruto and rank-and-filer Tochiozan.

Meanwhile, Harumafuji finally ended a nightmare start to his ozeki debut, huffing and puffing at the ring’s edge to bump out Kotoshogiku (0-5) for his first win of the tourney.

Harumafuji is under pressure to show his performance at last November’s Kyushu basho, when he was called Ama, was no fluke after he went 13-2 and took Hakuho all the way before losing to the yokozuna in a championship playoff.

Kaio (4-1) bounced back from Wednesday’s defeat to Baruto when he forced out Kyokutenho (1-4) to move closer to securing the majority of wins to avoid demotion from ozeki.

Kaio, fighting with his rank on the line for a record 12th time here, was only the only other ozeki to win as Kotooshu, Chiyotaikai and Kotomitsuki all bit the dust.