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Kotoshogiku, Hakuho keep share of lead; Kakuryu falls

Kyodo

Ozeki Kotoshogiku has changed an improbable script into his moment of truth ahead of the final day of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.

With one blazing burst of speed and agility in a bang-up of rank-and-filer Takayasu, the ozeki retained his share of the lead at 12-2 with none other than Hakuho, sumo’s premier yokozuna who is running on full cylinders as he chases his 30th career title.

The 14th day started off with five wrestlers still in the hunt for the coveted Emperor’s Cup in front of another packed weekend crowd at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.

In the end four remained standing, with yokozuna Kakuryu losing to upperclassman Hakuho in the day’s penultimate bout and falling out of the running for his first title since promotion to the top rank. Sekiwake Goeido outfoxed Terunofuji and kept his slim hopes alive to win his first career title along with Takayasu at 11-3.

Kotoshogiku gave Takayasu nothing of a lifeline in their match-up, steamrolling his opponent at the tachiai while Takayasu, who made one false start in his angst, could only flail his arms aimlessly as he was upended over the straw bales.

Kotoshogiku, who has not only surpassed all expectations by escaping demotion with eight straight wins from opening day but along with Takayasu is in the running for his first career title — a feat that would make him the first Japanese-born titlist since Tochiazuma won the 2006 New Year basho.

Hakuho, coming off a defeat to Kisenosato the previous day, had to reach deep into his energy reserves to dismantle Kakuryu’s attack.

He was narrowly brought to the brink more than once after uncharacteristically allowing his rival to grapple him chest to chest before extracting his pinned right hand when Kakuryu (10-4) lunged forward and driving his man out.

Hakuho, who had held the sole lead twice, only to relinquish it on the 11th and 13th days, is finding winning his 30th career championship much harder than he bargained for.

Goeido absorbed a fierce charge from Terunofuji (8-6), having to work before getting his left hand on the back of the mawashi and marching his man over the edge to stay in the running.

Hakuho faces Harumafuji (10-4), who beat Kisenosato (9-5) in the day’s final bout, while Kotoshogiku takes on Goeido on Sunday. Takayasu will meet Takekaze in his match.

Earlier, popular No. 5 maegashira Endo (7-7) put himself on the bubble for a winning record after rolling Toyohibiki (7-7) by “tsukiotoshi,” immediately out of the blocks.

Egyptian-born Osunaarashi pulled down Yoshikaze with an arm-bar technique after walloping his opponent with his trademark “kachiage” forearm and unleashing a barrage of slaps.

Sumo’s first wrestler from Africa will face Myogiryu as he aims to pick up his eighth win on Sunday.