FUKUOKA – Newly promoted grand champion Harumafuji passed his first test at sumo’s top rank in dominant fashion, making mincemeat of Homasho on the first day of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.
Hakuho, meanwhile, took a more cautious approach against trickster Aminishiki but got the same result to launch his bid for his first title in three meets with a win.
In the day’s penultimate bout, Harumafuji waited for Homasho to charge and unleashed a series of slaps to his face before getting his right hand around the komusubi’s mawashi and sending his opponent backpedaling over the ridge at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.
Harumafuji, who is bidding for his third consecutive title after going 15-0 the previous two basho, is the first to gain promotion to sumo’s highest rank since Hakuho in 2007. The new yokozuna has won 32 consecutive bouts.
In the day’s finale, Hakuho stood up tentatively with a watchful eye on Aminishiki before moving in for a textbook frontal force out of the komusubi. He is seeking his 23rd career title, which would place him alone in fifth on the all-time list.
The formerly unstoppable yokozuna is hoping to regain his form as he has not won a title since the spring meet and has only one Emperor’s Cup this year.
He is also in a bid to become the first wrestler since the establishment of the six-tournament system in 1958 with the most wins for the sixth consecutive year. Hakuho has 63 victories this year — two more than rival Harumafuji.
Estonian Baruto was the only one of three relegation-threatened ozeki to pick up one of the eight wins needed to keep his rank after a clumsy affair against Kaisei. Baruto deployed a rear shove out after failing to get his opponent over with a routine frontal force out.
Bulgarian Kotooshu was tripped up for a first-day loss at the hands of Shohozan, who sent the ozeki down with a beltless arm throw to thunderous applause from the No. 2 maegashira’s hometown fans.
Kotooshu was the first of the demotion-threatened ozeki to fall. He was followed immediately by Kotoshogiku, who lost to Tochiozan by the identical sukuinage technique.
Kisenosato allowed Okinoumi to get inside for a grip on his mawashi, but the ozeki stayed on his feet despite a stumble near the edge to send his opponent packing with a series of shoves to the chest.
Kakuryu was the third ozeki to hit the dirt as he was slammed onto his back by Goeido’s outer-leg trip after failing to get a speedy jump at the tachiai.