Unbeaten Kisenosato alone atop standings

Kyodo

Kisenosato continued to steal the spotlight on Sunday, when he won a battle of unbeatens to take the sole lead after eight days of the 15-day Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

The veteran ozeki, seeking his first grand tournament championship, entered the day at Edion Arena Osaka tied for the lead, but handed No. 4 maegashira Ikioi his first loss. Ikioi, who has not beaten the ozeki in their 11 career bouts, attacked aggressively. Kisenosato gave ground initially, but refused to be thrown. Eventually, the ozeki’s patience paid off and he was able to force his determined opponent out.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku, seeking to add to his first career championship from January and earn a likely promotion to yokozuna, stayed one win back of the leader. Like Kisenosato, Kotoshogiku faced a hard challenge on the tachiai. Komusubi Tochiozan, who entered the match with a 17-14 edge in their career bouts, came at him at full speed. Although rocked backward, Kotoshogiku managed to assert himself, seized control and slowly maneuvered Tochiozan (2-6) to the edge of the ring before shoving him out.

Kotoshogiku will have a chance to move into a share of the tournament lead on Monday, when he takes on Kisenosato. Kotoshogiku holds a 32-26 edge in their long-running rivalry.

Mongolian yokozuna Harumafuji, whose damaged right knee troubled him the day before, had enough in the tank to see off No. 4 maegashira Sokokurai in their first career encounter and improve to 6-2. Sokokurai, an ethnic Mongolian from China, fell to 1-5-2.

Fellow yokozuna Kakuryu (7-1) withstood a series of spirited assaults by big Bulgarian Aoiyama (3-5), before driving the No. 3 maegashira from the ring and beating him for the 15th time in 16 career bouts.

In the day’s final bout, yokozuna Hakuho also improved to 7-1 in a frantic match against sekiwake Yoshikaze (2-6) that started with heavy-handed thrusts and devolved into an intense slap skirmish. The yokozuna, splattered with his opponent’s blood, ended the day’s action by flinging the teetering sekiwake from the raised ring with a vicious shove.

Ozeki Goeido took advantage of the frowned-upon henka move to win a split-second bout against No. 2 maegashira Tochinoshin (1-7) and improve to 7-1. Goeido entered the tournament needing a minimum of eight wins to retain his status in sumo’s second highest rank. He pulled to the left to dodge the charge of his Georgian opponent and slapped him down. It was the second time the demotion-threatened Goeido had employed the henka during this tournament.

Injury-hobbled Terunofuji, also a “kadoban” ozeki in need of eight wins here, could manage only a weak effort against No. 2 maegashira Okinoumi (2-6), who had not beaten him in five previous bouts. Terunofuji charged straight ahead but was easily spun out to his third defeat.