FUKUOKA – Hakuho had a decidedly shaky performance against rank-and-filer Yoshikaze but snatched victory from the jaws of defeat to remain in a share of the lead on the ninth day of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Monday.
After missing out on yokozuna legend Futabayama’s all-time record of 69 consecutive wins, Hakuho has been struggling to get his head around the remaining matter at hand — winning his fifth consecutive title and 17th overall Emperor’s Cup.
It showed in Monday’s final bout when the Mongolian retreated immediately at the faceoff against the No. 5 maegashira and was almost sent backing over the edge at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.
But Hakuho regrouped — partly in thanks to the “gyoji”, or referee, who momentarily got in the way — to deploy an armlock that his opponent slipped out of before smacking him forward to the dirt and to a 5-4 record.
Hakuho, who has the second longest win streak of 63 bouts, is tied with ozeki Kaio and Baruto and rank-and-filer Toyonoshima at 8-1. Shotenro and Kyokutenho are one off the pace with 7-2 marks.
Kaio gave another vintage performance, belying his 38 years in a bout against Aran (2-7). The ozeki waited patiently to get his left hand inside for a grip on the Russian komusubi’s mawashi before plodding him out for the win.
Estonian goliath Baruto won a battle of European wrestlers against Georgian Tochinoshin (3-6), heaving his opponent in the air and forcing him out after the komusubi tried the same tactic to no avail.
Kotooshu (6-3) made it to 3-for-3 on this day for sumo’s second-highest rank, the Bulgarian ozeki twisting down Takekaze (4-5) with an overarm throw seconds into the match.