OSAKA – It was not pretty, but Asashoryu relieved some jitters on his yokozuna debut with a win over komusubi Tosanoumi on the first day Sunday of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.
The normally mercurial warrior from Ulan Bator appeared uncharacteristically tepid and stiff as the final bout got under way at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium.
Asashoryu, who was promoted to sumo’s ultimate rank after two successive titles with 14-1 records, jerked uncomfortably forward almost losing his footing before he settled down and slapped Tosanoumi to the clay to post his first win as a grand champion.
The 22-year-old Mongolian is aiming for his third straight title as the clear favorite for the Emperor’s Cup hardware in the absence of yokozuna Musashimaru, who is skipping his third straight meet due to a nagging wrist injury.
In the day’s upsets, relegation-threatened ozeki Kaio and Musoyama both fell to first-day losses.
Kaio, back after missing two meets with an arm injury, never had a prayer as he was given an all-too quick hiding by second-ranked maegashira Tochinonada.
Musoyama also took the defensive in the day’s penultimate bout before veteran No. 1 maegashira Takanonami planted him firmly over the straw bales.
In contrast, Chiyotaikai, who along with Kaio needs eight wins to keep his ozeki rank after missing the January meet with an arm injury, got his spring campaign off to a rocket start, taming top-ranked maegashira Mongolian grappler Kyokutenho with a no-nonsense frontal takeout.
Newly promoted sekiwake Wakanosato, who was 11-4 in January, made quick work of third-ranked maegashira Shimotori.
Former ozeki Dejima, who returned to the rank of komusubi from the No. 3 maegashira position in the January meet, escaped a near loss as he wrapped up third-ranked maegashira Kotonowaka with a leg trip while teetering on the edge.
No. 2 maegashira Takamisakari gave a display of bravado with his usual huff-and-puff chest slapping but got more than he bargained for against sekiwake Kotomitsuki, who quickly drilled him over the edge.
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