FUKUOKA – Kaio is making a final run at greatness in the twilight of his illustrious but injury-plagued career.
The ozeki war horse turned back the clock with another stupendous performance to dispatch Tochiozan on Tuesday, remaining in a tie for the lead at 9-1 with yokozuna Hakuho, ozeki Baruto and rank-and-filer Toyonoshima at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.
While Hakuho appears to be still shaken by his loss to Kisenosato on the second day that snapped a 63-bout winning streak, Kaio has taken the spotlight as the local favorite to cart home the Emperor’s Cup at the 15-day meet.
Tochiozan was toast as soon as the match began, Kaio grabbing his sekiwake opponent around the neck before slamming him hard to the dirt for a quick win at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.
The 38-year-old Kaio, who has struggled with injuries in recent years while trying to shrug off rumors of retirement, has a chance to win his sixth title here.
Tochiozan slipped to an unflattering 4-6 record and is a long way off from the double-digit wins he needs to even be considered for sumo’s second-highest rank.
Hakuho, who came six wins shy of Futabayama’s all-time record, once again looked zombie-esque in the day’s final bout against Takekaze (4-6), the yokozuna struggling to decide on a technique before deploying an armbar forceout for the win.
Estonian Baruto was never fooled for a second by Kakuryu’s sneaky sidestep at the charge, grabbing his opponent’s left arm with his right hand before twisting the sekiwake to the dohyo with an overarm throw.