FUKUOKA – Yokozuna Asashoryu manhandled Tochinonada but ozeki Kaio snapped like a breadstick under pressure as he fell to a first-day defeat to rival Kotomitsuki at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.
The Mongolian grand champion was never in danger in the day’s final bout as he gave the komusubi a few fierce shoves to the face and chest before smashing him over the edge at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.
Asashoryu won five straight basho from the New Year meet but saw his winning streak snapped when he finished with a 9-6 record at the autumn basho in September.
“I have to accept the pain of defeat and go out and crush the opponents I lost to,” Asashoryu said before the start of the 15-day meet.
If Asashoryu can claim the title he would be the first wrestler to claim five Emperor’s Cups in a single year since Chiyonofuji accomplished the feat in 1986.
In the day’s penultimate bout, yokozuna wannabe Kaio never found his game plan as komusubi Kotomitsuki took control and silenced the ozeki’s hometown crowd with a textbook frontal force out.
Kaio has a chance to win his second straight title this time out, a victory that would almost surely put him in line for promotion to sumo’s ultimate rank.
But after capturing his career fifth title with a 13-2 record, the 32-year-old Kaio is under enormous pressure to shut down Asashoryu and his other rivals in what could be his final shot at reaching sumo’s summit.
In other key bouts, ozeki Tochiazuma escaped the jaws of defeat to post a first-day victory but fellow ozeki Musoyama was sent out to a loss on the opening day for the second basho in a row.
Tochiazuma had a struggle but banged out Kakizoe, deploying a frontal belt grip before ushering the No. 2 maegashira over the ridge but Musoyama was sent backpedaling out by Mongolian Hakuho, who pinned the ozeki’s arms above his head before charging him out.
Tochiazuma and Musoyama must post winning records of eight or more victories to keep their ozeki ranks.
Ozeki Chiyotaikai let Dejima charge forward before sidestepping and sending the top maegashira into the ringside seats for an easy victory.
Sekiwake Wakanosato absorbed the charge of Georgian Kokkai before ramming the second-ranked maegashira out with a furious charge.
Mongolian Kyokushuzan fended off a fierce attack from Shimotori before barreling out the No. 5 maegashira while fellow fourth-ranked maegashira Tamanoshima plowed down Kyokutenho.
Crowd favorite Takamisakari tussled with Toyozakura but the seventh-ranked maegashira lost his footing and was twisted down to the dirt surface.
Earlier, Kisenosato, who at 18 years old is the second youngest wrestler since 1926 to be promoted to sumo’s top flight, got off to a winning start by shoving out veteran Toki.
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