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Kakuryu shines in yokozuna debut

Kyodo

Newly promoted yokozuna Kakuryu hit the dirt running with a mash-up of Aoiyama while veteran yokozuna Harumafuji was sent retreating for a first-day loss to Yoshikaze on the opening day of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.

Kakuryu was never in trouble as he moved forward in a relentless onslaught before getting the Bulgarian-born maegashira to lose his balance with a well-placed smack-down technique at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Harumafuji committed sumo’s cardinal sin of backpedaling as he attempted to drag Yoshikaze down by the back of the neck. But his komusubi opponent never lost his footing as he came flying forward to shove the yokozuna into the ringside cushions.

“I was so focused it was over before I knew it,” said Yoshikaze. “The yokozuna retreated. … Well, I don’t really know what to think about that. My goal is to beat everyone I face.”

After Harumafuji’s defeat, Hakuho was in no mood for games in the day’s finale against Chiyootori as he swatted the komusubi once in the face and got one hand on the back of the mawashi before moving swiftly in for the kill.

Kotoshogiku ran like a freight train over Chiyotairyu, charging full-throttle with a low center of gravity to belly-bump his opponent quickly over the straw bales.

For the first time in 13 years, three of sumo’s top rank are vying for the championship after Kakuryu won his first career title in March. What’s more all three men come from Mongolia.

Senior yokozuna Hakuho is gunning for his 29th Emperor’s Cup, his first in two meets. Harumafuji, who was slow to get up, is aiming for his seventh career title.

After the retirement of European wrestlers Baruto and Kotooshu and Kakuryu’s promotion, the only men remaining at sumo’s second-highest rank are Japanese-born wrestlers Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato.

Kisenosato needed time before getting his left hand in position on the front of the mawashi against little-man Takekaze but kept his composure to shove out the No. 1 maegashira by “oshidashi.”

Technician Aminishiki deployed a “henka” sidestep at the tachiai to outflank Tochiozan, sending down the sekiwake with a thrust down as the crowd unleashed a collective gasp of disappointment.

Goeido, who is hoping to make a bid at ozeki in the near future, sent Takarafuji down with an armlock throw, despite getting a slow jump at the tachiai.

Rising star Endo, sporting his first topknot since joining the elite class last September, latched onto veteran Kyokutenho’s mawashi with a firm right hand and marched his opponent over the edge in a powerful frontal force-out.

Egyptian No. 10 maegashira Osunaarashi, sumo’s first African-born rikishi, churned out a vicious thrusting attack against Okinoumi before getting both hands around the mawashi to dump the No. 9 maegashira out by “yoritaoshi.”