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Hakuho breaks free for sole lead

by David Hueston and Dave Hueston

Kyodo News

As the competition drops off like flies, Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho once again proved he is in a league of his own, grabbing sole possession of the lead while extending his interminable winning streak to 56 bouts at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament on Monday.

Hakuho beat countryman Tokusegawa to improve to 9-0 at the 15-day meet, continuing his run that began on the 14th day of the New Year basho in January, while Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu sapped the energy out of the title race after suffering his first defeat at the hands of nemesis Aminishiki.

In the day’s final at Ryogoku Kokugikan, Hakuho used his favored right-handed grip while keeping his opponent from grabbing his own mawashi before rolling the No. 4 maegashira with a well-timed overarm throw. Tokusegawa fell to 3-6.

“I tried to pull him over twice and pushed him down to get him off balance. That seemed to work to set up the throw,” Hakuho said of his win, which tied him with former yokozuna Tachiyama, whose run lasted from the end of the Meiji era (1868-1911) into the Taisho period (1912-1925).

Hakuho, who topped former yokozuna Chiyonofuji (53) on the all-time list on the seventh day, holds the second longest run since the start of the Showa era (1926-1988).

He is now on a mission to match the legendary Futabayama, the all-time leader who had a 69-bout streak from 1936-1939 when a yearly two-tournament system was still in place.

Hakuho is gunning for his fourth consecutive title (16th overall) with a perfect 15-0 record, which would leave him seven wins short of Futabayama’s record at the Kyushu meet in November.

“I saw that the ozeki were losing so I was extra careful today to be even more resolved to win,” Hakuho said.

Once again, Kotooshu had the wrong playbook against Aminishiki, who now leads their head-to-head matches 14-10.

Aminishiki (6-3) was called for two false starts as Kotooshu tried to stall for time ahead of the match, but he held firm to send the ozeki crashing over the edge with an overarm throw.

“I got a grip on the top of his mawashi and I could tell that he was having trouble moving his feet. In the end, it was a comfortable win,” said Aminishiki, adding that since most of his fans are elderly he was happy to win on Respect for the Aged Day.

Mongolian ozeki Harumafuji was also sent to defeat in a loss to Tochiozan (7-2) on another day of disappointment for sumo’s second-highest rank.