Kisenosato’s fresh bid for promotion to yokozuna suffered a major blow on Thursday with a second loss, while Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho moved into sole possession of the lead with a perfect 5-0 record at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
Aiming for promotion to sumo’s top rank for the second time, Kisenosato looked clearly rattled after Bulgarian opponent Aoiyama (3-2) knocked him back after coming out of the blocks too early for a “matta” false start at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
But when the bout finally did get going after a second matta, Aoiyama was in total control, ramming Kisenosato out to score his first win in six meetings in grand tournaments against the ozeki.
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” said Aoiyama, a third-ranked maegashira.
“I was calm. I got forward well and my feet moved well.”
Kisenosato, who suffered an upset defeat on the opening day on Sunday, now needs to win all of his remaining bouts and win the championship if he is to stand a realistic chance of promotion.
The wheels came off his first crack at yokozuna with a string of early defeats last summer at the Nagoya Basho.
In the day’s finale, Hakuho capitalized on a first defeat by sekiwake Goeido to seize pole position, sending down No. 2 maegashira Ikioi (1-4) with a textbook sukuinage beltless arm throw.
Despite a promising start to his bout with Tochiozan, Goeido lost steam and got bumped out of a share of the overnight lead by the komusubi, who improved to 2-3.
Goeido dropped into a tie at 4-1 with seven other wrestlers, including ozeki Kakuryu.
Kakuryu was rightly awarded victory against third-ranked maegashira Toyohibiki after a deliberation by ringside judges. Television replays clearly showed Toyohibiki had stepped outside the ring before Kakuryu went stumbling over the straw bales.
In other bouts in the upper echelons of the elite makuuchi division, Kotoshogiku benefited from a day off after his default win over Myogiryu on Wednesday and saw off winless Aminishiki to move to 3-2.
Kotoshogiku needs to post a majority of wins at the 15-day meet to save his ozeki rank.
Goeido’s fellow sekiwake Kotooshu got the fourth of 10 wins he needs to make a swift return to ozeki, the rugged Bulgarian sending No. 1 maegashira Toyonoshima flying out of the ring with a barrage of powerful thrusts. Toyonoshima dropped to 2-3.