The ozeki duo of Tochiazuma and Chiyotaikai along with sekiwake Kotomitsuki pulled out hard-fought wins Sunday to remain the unbeaten leaders on the eighth day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

No. 13 maegashira Hamanishiki, meanwhile, was saddled with a second loss by fellow rank-and-filer Tochisakae in an early bout at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan to leave the trio of leaders two wins clear of the rest of the field in the 15-day derby for the Emperor’s Cup.

Kotomitsuki, seeking promotion to ozeki as well as the tournament championship, survived the closest call to being tagged with his first loss as Chiyotenzan (3-5) had the sekiwake falling forward with a belt throw.

The Sadogatake-stable sekiwake, however, quickly righted himself and muscled the No. 4 maegashira out of the ring to win their first-ever match-up.

Chiyotaikai, who won the New Year tourney crown in 1999, came out with both arms flailing against former ozeki Dejima (3-5) to ram the No. 4 maegashira out of the ring and notch his eighth straight win of the tournament.

Chiyotaikai’s win also ensured that the Kokonoe-stable champion would not lose his ozeki ranking after dropping out of the autumn tourney with an injured left foot and sitting out the entire Kyushu basho in November.

Tochiazuma, meanwhile, was on the defensive throughout most of his bout with Wakanosato (5-3). The newly promoted ozeki had to battle back from the edge of the ring in the day’s final bout before getting things turned around and walking the stubborn komusubi out.

Ozeki Kaio took his time against tricky Kaiho (2-6) and dumped the No. 3 maegashira out of the ring for his sixth win to keep alive his slim title hopes along with 6-2 maegashira wrestlers Tochinonada, Tosanoumi, Hamanishiki and Tochisakae.

Also, ozeki Musoyama (5-3) cruised past former ozeki Takanonami (5-3) for an easy win while sekiwake Asashoryu (4-4) ended a two-day losing streak by pushing out Mongolian compatriot and komusubi Kyokutenho (1-7).

Top maegashira Kyokushuzan (2-6), also from Mongolia, walked out second-ranked Toki (2-6) for a second win.

American Sentoryu (3-5) slumped to a fifth loss as a No. 15 maegashira, getting shoved out by scrappy former sekiwake Takatoriki (5-3).

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