With everyone worried about the fate of Harumafuji, it was rival yokozuna Hakuho who was the first to fall at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Tuesday.
While Harumafuji prevailed in a hard-fought battle with little-man Toyonoshima to retain an undefeated record, Hakuho was sent over the edge in a matter of seconds by upstart Myogiryu (1-2) in the day’s finale at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
After the first three days of the 15-day meet, Harumafuji features as the early frontrunner among a group of seven rikishi with 3-0 records. Harumafuji is coming off an embarrassing 9-6 record in his debut as a yokozuna in November.
In the day’s final, Hakuho (2-1) could get nothing rolling from his thrusting arsenal and was sent quickly over the ridge by the top-ranked maegashira’s shoves.
The yokozuna, who is famous for his ironclad outside left-hand grip, never knew what hit him as he was stymied from getting into position when Myogiryu dug deep to pound him back with a right-handed thrusting attack.
Hakuho is seeking his second consecutive title and 24th career championship.
“I probably took too much time looking instead of trying to stop him. You could say that (I failed at the taichai),” said Hakuho after he was asked if things had gone awry at the initial charge. “He’s (Myogiryu has) gotten stronger, and that’s why he is where he is now. I’ll just take things day by day and fight hard from tomorrow.”
It was the first time in their six meetings that Myogiryu had beaten Hakuho. It was also Myogiru’s first kinboshi, a win by a maegashira wrestler over a yokozuna.
“I’m glad I could come hard off the initial charge,” said Myogiryu. “This is my sumo at its best, so I’m happy.”
One match prior, Harumafuji could not get his preferred left hand around for an outside grip on Toyonoshima (1-2), but ever the technician, the yokozuna found a way to eventually topple his opponent using an outer leg trip.
“It was good that I could be aggressive throughout. I was calm because I still got a firm right hand on the inside of his mawashi,” said Harumafuji. “This is just the start of the basho, so we don’t know what’s going to happen,” he added, referring to Hakuho’s defeat.
Toyonoshima inadvertently scratched the grand champion, leaving a streak of blood across the yokozuna’s pockmarked face. “The cut is pretty deep. I have a lot of cuts on my face as it is. Any more, and I won’t be human,” he joked.
Mongolia’s Kakuryu (2-1) bumped off winless Shohozan in a matter of seconds, swatting the newly promoted komusubi to the sandy surface immediately out of the blocks to rebound from the previous day’s defeat.
But fellow ozeki Kisenosato tasted his first defeat at the hands of Tochiozan, who kept his center of gravity low as he wrapped his right hand around the ozeki’s mawashi and sent him backpedaling over the edge in a textbook frontal forceout.
Kotoshogiku narrowly escaped with his third win when he deployed a last-gasp armlock throw on Toyohibiki, who had shoved the ozeki back to the straw bales before being twisted down at the last moment.
Kotooshu, whose only title thus far came at the 2008 Summer Basho, was sent to his first defeat by bugaboo Aminishiki, who once again made things look easy against the Bulgarian ozeki with a quick-fire slap down. Aminishiki (1-2) evened his slate to 17-17 in career bouts against Kotooshu.
In a clash of sekiwake, injury-hit Baruto shot nothing but blanks against Goeido, losing his balance as he moved forward in an ineffectual charge that sent him straight over the ridge to suffer his second loss in as many days.
Estonian goliath Baruto (1-2), who is not fully recovered from a left-knee injury, needs at least 10 wins for a return to sumo’s second highest rank at the spring meet in March.
In matches in the lower echelon of the top division, Bulgarian Aoiyama (3-0) beat Chiyotairyu (2-1), winning a decision after it was determined by ringside judges that the latter’s arm hit the dirt before the No. 6 maegashira stepped over the barrier when the gyoji’s initial call was called into question.
Tochinoshin steamrolled Masunoyama (1-2) in a lopsided bout to earn his third win, while Brazilian Kaisei (2-1) pulverized winless Russian Aran in a barrage of thrusts for a frontal forceout.