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Hakuho owns longest postwar win streak

by David Hueston and Dave Hueston

Kyodo News

This time, Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho drew the sellout crowd he deserves.

Hakuho made history on Saturday, becoming the only wrestler in postwar Japan to win 54 consecutive bouts, putting him past former yokozuna great Chiyonofuji (53) on the seventh day of the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.

In the day’s finale, Hakuho absorbed a hard charge from Kisenosato, slipping slightly on the dirt before recovering nicely to send the komusubi packing with a series of shoves to extend his run that started on the 14th day of the New Year meet.

The lone yokozuna shares the lead at 7-0 at the 15-day meet with Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu and surprise-package Yoshikaze.

Although Hakuho fell off balance, he used his hands pressing downward on the top of Kisenosato’s neck while deftly maneuvering around his opponent to gain leverage to place him outside the ring — afterward gleefully smiling at the crowd which erupted in cheers.

“I definitely was nervous but since I reached my goal yesterday (of 53 straight wins) I think I could relax in my bout today. He stopped me in my tracks once but my lower body is very sturdy, so I stayed calm. I feel like I really repaid my debt of gratitude to sumo elder Kokonoe today,” said Hakuho, who jokingly apologized to Chiyonofuji, now sumo elder Kokonoe, after his bout.

“I will continue to make efforts everyday in the ring,” he continued.

It was the first time at this meet that the “maninonrei” banners were dropped above the suspended roof over the ring for a sellout crowd at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Chiyonofuji’s winning streak ran from May to November 1988.

“This is just one milestone in his career,” said Kokonoe. “I want him to continue fighting hard in all his bouts. It doesn’t matter who his opponent is. The point is he has to remain focused in his sumo. I don’t see any areas of weakness in him.”

Former yokozuna Futabayama holds the all-time leading record of 69 straight wins, which he set from the seventh day of the 1936 spring meet until the third day of the 1939 spring meet.

Hakuho is bidding for his fourth consecutive title (16th overall) with a perfect 15-0 record, which would put him just seven wins shy of Futabayama’s record.

Meanwhile, it was a day of mixed fortunes for sumo’s four wrestlers at sumo’s second-highest rank of ozeki.

Kotooshu muscled out Kyokutenho (2-5) after getting a firm grip on his opponent’s belt to stay undefeated and drew laughter from the crowd after he inadvertently fell on top of a cameraman at ringside.

Mongolian ozeki Harumafuji (5-2) weathered a fierce slapping attack from countryman Kakuryu (4-3) but was sent to the dohyo surface with a perfectly timed twisting overarm throw.

Veteran ozeki Kaio took the bait against Kotoshogiku (4-3) when the diminutive No. 3 maegashira sidestepped at the face-off and proceeded to belly him over the edge to a fourth defeat.

Estonian ozeki Baruto (6-1), meanwhile, chased out Georgian Tochinoshin (4-3), sending the No. 2 maegashira toppling into the ringside seats with a series of shoves to the chest.

Yoshikaze swatted Georgian Gagamaru after a short exchange of shoves to stay perfect.