/

Hakuho secures title

One win away from third straight unbeaten basho

by David Hueston and Dave Hueston

Kyodo News

NAGOYA — Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho clinched his 15th career title in anticlimactic fashion at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament on Saturday. But he still got an extra bonus of extending his miraculous winning streak to 46 bouts to place him alone in third on sumo’s all-time list.

Hakuho claimed his third consecutive title without having to lift a finger as Japanese-born nearest challenger Homasho fell to a third defeat to Mongolian Tokusegawa before the lone yokozuna could step into the raised ring for a pulverization of countryman Harumafuji at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.

“I did what I could do,” said Hakuho. “It is too bad that I won’t be able to get anything. It’s unfortunate,” said Hakuho said, referring to the fact that the Emperor’s Cup and other awards will not be presented in a “yusho” ceremony due to a gambling scandal rocking the sport.

“Everyone is trying to do his best at this tournament,” he continued.

He improved his slate to 14-0 in the day’s final, leaving him as the only undefeated wrestler at the 15-day meet.

With his win over the ozeki, Hakuho surpassed former yokozuna Taiho’s winning run that ran from the second day of the 1968 autumn meet until the first day of the 1969 spring meet. Hakuho’s win streak dates back to the penultimate day of the New Year meet in January.

But when asked about putting his name in the record book with the new achievement, especially under the extraordinary circumstances, Hakuho could only muster, “What can I say? I don’t really know what to think.”

In the day’s final, Hakuho bided his time after the initial charge, holding off Harumafuji in a belt clinch before sending the ozeki to the dohyo surface with a beautifully executed right-handed beltless arm throw. Harumafuji slipped to 9-5.

If he can defeat Estonian ozeki Baruto on Sunday, Hakuho will become the only man since the incorporation of the six-tournament system in 1958 to win three straight basho with perfect 15-0 records.

Next stop — former yokozuna Chiyonofuji’s legendary 53-bout win streak set from the seventh day of the 1988 summer meet to the 14th day of the Fukuoka meet the same year. Futabayama holds the all-time record with 69 consecutive wins.

Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu (10-4) showed big-man Baruto (8-6) who was boss, muscling out his rival after getting both hands on his opponent’s mawashi to usher him over the ridge.

Early on, Homasho tried shifting positions for a better grip but could do nothing to stop a runaway express by Tokusegawa (8-6), who toppled the No. 13 maegashira over the edge, taking referee Waichiro over the edge with him and his opponent.

Ringside judges called for a conference, or “monoii,” as it appeared as if Tokusegawa might have gone over first, but gyoji Waichiro’s call was upheld.

Russian Aran heaved out Mongolian Kakuryu, leaving both men at 10-4. Crowd favorite Takamisakari (9-5) sent Georgian makuuchi debutant Gagamaru (5-9) to the dirt with a tap to the back at the faceoff and almost apologized for the bout ending so quickly.