OSAKA – The Spring Grand Sumo Tournament took a twist on Friday when both yokozuna Harumafuji and Hakuho suffered defeats, throwing the door wide open in the title race with just two days remaining.
Hakuho and promotion-chasing ozeki Kakuryu moved into a two-way tie for the lead at 12-1, while Harumafuji, who missed the entire New Year Basho through injury, is still within mathematical reach at 11-2 as he aims for his seventh career title.
Harumafuji was sent to a shock second straight defeat at the hands of sekiwake Goeido (10-3), who took full advantage of the partisan crowd cheering him on in his hometown as he knocked the yokozuna out by “yoritaoshi” in the day’s penultimate bout.
Hakuho was stunned by ozeki Kotoshogiku (7-6) in the day’s finale and appeared to hurt his right hand in the process when he was catapulted off the raised ring.
Kotoshogiku came barreling forward and never allowed Hakuho to get a grip on his mawashi before shunting him over the edge. Hakuho immediately grabbed the back of his right hand and grimaced as he walked back to the dressing room.
Kakuryu put himself in the best position yet to reach the top of sumo’s ladder, disposing of Kisenosato (8-5) in a brutal display of force against his ozeki rival.
The Mongolian ozeki, who will likely need to win his first career title here with at least 13 wins to be considered for yokozuna, now turns his full attention to Hakuho for Saturday’s bout. Harumafuji takes on Kotoshogiku in the other big matchup.
Endo (6-7), who is quickly becoming a favorite among sumo fans for his warrior fighting style, put himself on the bubble when he lost to Takayasu (5-8), who was obstinate as he moved into position to dump his opponent.
The No. 1 maegashira, who lost his first four bouts against the top-ranking wrestlers before winning his next four, absorbed a whirlwind of thrusts from the former komusubi and reopened a cut above his left eye before he was sent tumbling onto his back.
Egyptian Osunaarashi (7-5-1), who sat out two bouts due to an injured right thigh, suffered his fifth loss in a row (one by default) at the hands of veteran technician Aminishiki (8-5).
Sumo’s first African-born rikishi was all upper body as he unleashed a fierce slap across his opponent’s face, but Aminishiki kept his cool to drag Osunaarashi down with a “shitatedashinage” pulling underarm throw.