Hakuho off to flying start in Osaka


Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho pounced on Aminishiki to start off in the winner’s column at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday — the first meet after the retirement of former yokozuna Asashoryu.

Hakuho threw the komusubi off-balance with a series of well-placed shoves before sending him packing from the rear in the day’s final bout at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium.

Sekiwake Baruto, meanwhile, also made an encouraging start out of the blocks in his quest for promotion to ozeki with a bulldozing of second-ranked Russian Aran.

The Estonian sekiwake, who is nursing an injury to his left thumb, needs at least 13 wins to be considered for sumo’s second-highest rank.

Hakuho is gunning for his 13th Emperor’s Cup and first after Asashoryu won the New Year basho, despite allegations he attacked a man outside a Tokyo nightspot in a drunken rampage while the tournament was still taking place.

Now that Hakuho is the sole yokozuna, the pressure to maintain his motivation in the absence of his chief rival will be difficult as few, if any of the higher ranked wrestlers, have challenged his dominance in recent times.

Sumo’s four ozeki got off to flying starts with bread-and-butter wins.

Relegation-threatened Kotomitsuki had no problem heaving out Kyokutenho once he got both arms wrapped under the armpits of the Mongolian No. 2 maegashira.

Facing demotion for the first time, Kotomitsuki must get a majority of wins at the 15-day meet to keep his ozeki status.

Veteran Kaio, who is competing in the elite makuuchi division for a record 100th time, swatted down Wakanosato after the top-ranked wrestler tried to charge him out immediately at face-off.

Bulgarian Kotooshu absorbed a fierce charge by Mongolian Kakuryu before shoving the No. 1 maegashira over the straw bales.

Mongolian Harumafuji knocked the stuffing out of Kisenosato with an unintentional head-butt that left the komusubi dazed before he got up slowly to exit the raised ring.

In an earlier bout, sumo’s “Robocop” Takamisakari, who revs himself up with pre-bout chest puffing to the thrill of the crowd, lifted out Homasho.