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Hakuho sets record

Yokozuna goes 15-0 for third straight tournament

by David Hueston and Dave Hueston

Kyodo News

NAGOYA — Just call him superman.

A day after capturing his 15th career title, Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho capped off a stellar performance with a superhuman feat against ozeki Baruto on Sunday, making him the only man in the history of sumo to win three consecutive meets with perfect 15-0 records.

With a victory over the Estonian man-mountain in a mouthwatering final match of the 15-day Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament, Hakuho stretched his personal winning streak to 47 bouts.

In the finale, Hakuho held off a rampage from Baruto (8-7), who shook the yokozuna to and fro with his massive frame, in front of a riveted auditorium at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.

But never one to shrink from a challenge, Hakuho reached deep into his energy reserves before finding a way to dump the ozeki with one mighty left-handed overarm throw, causing fans to erupt with cheers and flying “zabuton” cushions around the auditorium.

No one was even close to Hakuho, who set the bar so high that his nearest challengers finished four losses off the pace.

“I’m so happy,” said a teary-eyed Hakuho. “I’m thankful to all the fans who have rooted for me throughout the 15 days. This has been a tough basho (because of the gambling scandal), but I was able to focus myself in mind and body.”

Hakuho also achieved a record that eluded Chiyonofuji by one win, despite the former yokozuna great’s legendary 53-bout win streak. Hakuho is the only wrestler to have won three consecutive meets without a loss since the introduction of the six-tourney system in 1958.

“The Wolf,” as Chiyonofuji was known by fans, ripped through opponents from the seventh day of the 1988 summer meet to the penultimate day of the Fukuoka meet in November the same year, but missed the record when he lost to Onokuni on the final day.

“This (record) was never something that I was aiming to achieve. I think I got this result because of my strong feelings about sumo and the everyday training I put in. I promise to give my all until the last day of the next basho as well,” said Hakuho.

Before the start of the makuuchi bouts, acting Japan Sumo Association chief Hiroyoshi Murayama apologized once again in a statement to sumo fans over a gambling scandal rocking the sport and alleged ties to organized crime, with Hakuho and all of the “sanyaku,” wrestlers in the top three ranks below yokozuna, bowing in a row.