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Hakuho, Baruto still tied for tourney lead at 7-0

by David Hueston and Dave Hueston

Kyodo

Before the strike of the final wooden clapper, Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho was already locked into his hyper-focused zenlike state.

Kitataiki (1-6) became the object of his wrath in a controlled display of force once the day’s final bout at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament got under way on Saturday.

Hakuho improved his unblemished mark to 7-0, Baruto stayed in a dead heat with the yokozuna but Kotooshu was sent tumbling to his first defeat as week one of the 15-day meet wrapped up in front of a packed house at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Ozeki Kisenosato and Kotooshu are one off the pace at 6-1.

Hakuho is chasing his third consecutive title and 22nd overall Emperor’s Cup, a feat which would place him in a tie with former yokozuna Takanohana for fifth on the all-time list. He faces Takayasu in the pair’s first meeting on Sunday.

“I moved forward quickly today. It was a good performance,” said Hakuho, who got his right hand inside immediately at the face-off before ushering his opponent over the straw bales in one smooth motion. “My opponent moved sideways at the end, so he was easy to take out.”

Estonian Baruto, who had not gone undefeated in the first week since his ozeki debut at the 2010 Summer Basho, was first up from sumo’s second-highest rank in a bout against Mongolian sekiwake Kakuryu (5-2), whom he steamrolled in a matter of seconds to stay perfect.

Ozeki debutant Kisenosato, who was hit with a loss on the fourth day, sent winless Wakakoyu sprawling after one shove out of the crouch to remain in hot pursuit of the leading pair.

“I didn’t fight that well in today’s bout but I guess my timing was good,” said Kisenosato.

Harumafuji was the first of the ozeki casualties, dropping to a second straight loss when he took a spill against Goeido (2-5), who deployed an underarm throw to toss the Mongolian ozeki to a 5-2 mark.