NAGOYA – Promotion-chasing Kisenosato tumbled headlong over his first hurdle in his bid for yokozuna, falling to a first defeat at the hands of nemesis Tochiozan on the third day of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament on Tuesday.
It was a somber defeat for Kisenosato, who is making his first challenge at yokozuna and is expected to win at least 13 bouts, to capture his first career championship, or at least stay in the title race until the very end.
Yokozuna Harumafuji was the other big upset after suffering a first loss in a feeble performance against top-ranked maegashira Takayasu (1-2). The defeat — a simple twisting overarm throw by Takayasu — was further evidence of Harumafuji’s erratic form since his debut at sumo’s highest rank at last year’s Kyushu Basho.
Kisenosato, who is aiming to become the first Japanese-born yokozuna since Takanohana’s retirement in January 2003, never got his guns blazing against the No. 2 maegashira, who swatted the ozeki down with his left hand at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.
The Naruto ozeki led 12-8 in head-to-heads coming into Tuesday’s match, but Kisenosato had struggled against Tochiozan in pretournament training — something his opponent was well aware of.
“I just came out strong and tried to get the advantage. I did well against him in training. I want to keep going strong like this from tomorrow,” said Tochiozan, who improved to 2-1.
Yokozuna Hakuho pulverized winless Takekaze in a thrusting attack, smacking the smaller man down like a flea to stay on track as he aims for his third consecutive championship.
Hakuho extended his winning streak to 33 and needs seven more in succession to make him the first wrestler since the start of the Showa Era to have two 40-win streaks.
The three other ozeki, who look more determined than ever to derail Kisenosato’s yokozuna bid, came through with flying colors.
Kotoshogiku (3-0) got both arms wrapped around the waist of Georgian Gagamaru (0-3) before using his trademark “gaburi-yori,” torso grind to send his opponent out in textbook fashion.
Kotooshu did well to maintain his balance to send winless sekiwake Goeido to the dirt with a left-handed armlock throw to also improve to 3-0. Kakuryu left Tokitenku (0-3) seeing stars when he unleashed a viscous throat-grabbing attack before whacking the komusubi out.
Earlier, Ikioi (2-1) pulled down Fujiazuma (1-2) but became the second wrestler this basho to lose by “hansoku,” or foul, because his finger got accidentally tangled in his opponent’s topknot.
Sokokurai, a 15th-ranked maegashira, won his first bout since his return to the raised ring, beating second-tier juryo wrestler Oiwato (1-2) in the day’s first bout in the elite makuuchi division.
The Chinese national was fired due to accusations of bout rigging in 2011 but reinstated in April this year after a court ruled his dismissal invalid.