OSAKA – Ozeki Kakuryu’s yokozuna bid took a dent on Tuesday as he was handed a first defeat at the hands of rank-and-filer Okinoumi on the third day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.
Yokozuna Hakuho, meanwhile, feted his 29th birthday in style with a demolition of youngster Endo, winning convincingly on the day that also marked the third anniversary of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
Hakuho, who coincidently is gunning for his 29th career championship, shares the early lead with seven wrestlers at 3-0, the group featuring fellow yokozuna Harumafuji who missed the entire New Year Basho due to an injured left ankle.
Kakuryu, who has been tasked with winning the tournament with at least 13 wins for any real consideration for a place at sumo’s top rank, was immediately put on the back foot and retreated without a fight as Okinoumi improved to the same 2-1 mark.
“I was really focused. I just wanted to get inside quickly and take control of the bout,” said Okinoumi, who won his third consecutive match to improve to 4-7 in career bouts against the ozeki.
In the day’s finale at Bodymaker Colosseum, Hakuho sent Endo (0-3) sprawling in a matter of seconds, putting a damper on the mood of sumo fans who’ve been rooting for the top maegashira in his fourth appearance in the top flight.
Endo, whose face was a patchwork of scrapes and scratches after his run-ins from the first two days, was trying to match former ozeki Musoyama’s record mark of just seven tournaments since his debut to get his first kinboshi, or maegashira win over a yokozuna.
Harumafuji, who thrashed Endo on Monday after the latter’s loss to Kakuryu on Sunday, was not fazed in the least by a false start by Mongolian countryman Tamawashi (0-3), quickly administering a smack-down of the No. 1 maegashira once the bout got under way.
Kisenosato, who failed in his second bid at yokozuna last time out and is facing demotion for the first time, won his third straight with a bulldozing of winless Shohozan.
Kotoshogiku, who has been hampered by an injured right shoulder, finally got his torso grind-out technique working to force out Tochinowaka (1-2) by yorikiri for a second win.
Kyokutenho, who will be 40 this September, posted his career 872nd victory to match sumo legend Taiho’s mark for fifth on the all-time list with a yorikiri shove-out of Chiyotairyu (1-2).
“Everyone had been telling me about it, but I never thought I would make it this quickly,” said Kyokutenho, who became the oldest to win a makuuchi championship in May 2012.
The Japan Sumo Association held a moment of silence with spectators queued up to enter the auditorium in remembrance of those who lost their lives in one of country’s worst disasters in its history before sumo’s top echelon was introduced.