Hakuho steals Asa’s thunder on final day

Kyodo News

Hakuho prevailed in an all-yokozuna showdown to take the gloss off Asashoryu’s 25th championship win on the final day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.

In an anticlimactic finale, Asashoryu, who secured the tournament hardware on Saturday, failed on his attempt to knock over Hakuho with a pair of inner leg trips as both grappled for control at Ryogoku Kokugikan. And with only pride to play for, Hakuho (12-3) countered and followed through to march Asashoryu out to only his second defeat of the 15-day meet.

“It’s been a while since I have won the title on the penultimate day,” said Asashoryu. “The yokozuna battle is the final and I was fired up for it so I’m sorry I couldn’t win for my fans here.”

Asashoryu’s latest championship triumph gave him sole possession of third place on the all-time list behind former yokozuna greats Taiho (32) and Chiyonofuji (31).

Asked what the secret to his success was, the 29-year-old replied, “A strong heart and the support of the fans. Hopefully I can keep on going.”

Hakuho’s surprisingly lackluster showing here comes after he dominated sumo in 2009, losing only four bouts in regulation over the entire year.

In other action, Bulgarian Kotooshu (9-6) came out on top of an ozeki battle after disposing of Mongolian Harumafuji (10-5) with a textbook beltless arm throw.

Veteran ozeki Kaio (9-6) delivered arguably his best performance of the tournament to see off fourth-ranked Kaizoe (6-9) and extend his all-time record of makuuchi division wins to 815.

The 37-year-old Tomozuna stable war horse moved ahead of former Chiyonofuji on the all-time list when he beat Chiyotaikai on the third day of the meet for his 808th victory in sumo’s premier league.

Estonian sekiwake Baruto sent down fifth-ranked maegashira Kyokutenho (8-7) with a pulling overarm throw for his 12th win and earned the Outstanding Performance Prize, one of three special prizes the Japan Sumo Association gives to makuuchi division wrestlers on the final day of a tournament.

Aminishiki won the Technique Prize, the sixth-ranked maegashira crushing out Goeido for an 11th win and condemning his second-ranked opponent to a majority of losses in the process.