Grand champion Asashoryu of Mongolia picked up right where he left off last year with a convincing win over compatriot Hakuho on the opening day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
Fighting in the finale at Ryogoku Kokugikan, Asashoryu quickly went on the attack and forced the komusubi wrestler back with a series of powerful arm thrusts to the upper body.
Hakuho appeared to have weathered the storm against his Mongolian mentor with a few arm thrusts of his own but the ringside judges correctly ruled that he stepped over the straw ridge with his left foot.
Asashoryu, who won five out of six tournaments last year, said before this meet he is aiming to win all six events this year.
His only loss in his year-ending victory at November’s Kyushu tournament was to Hakuho.
Ozeki Kaio dodged a bullet when he sidestepped Iwakiyama at the ring’s edge and threw the top maegashira down after being forced back at the face off.
The 32-year-old Kaio, who is running out of chances to earn promotion to yokozuna, will need at least 13 wins in this tournament to get consideration for the sport’s highest rank.
Chiyotaikai, who needs a winning record in this tourney to maintain his ozeki status, didn’t get the start he wanted and was swatted down by top maegashira Tochinonada for an opening-day loss.
Sekiwake Wakanosato, who is looking for promotion to ozeki, got off to a winning start with a less than convincing win over Kotonowaka.
Kotonowaka almost upended Wakanosato with an arm throw but the sekiwake grappler regained his balance before dispatching the towering No. 2 maegashira.
Injury-prone sekiwake Tochiazuma prevailed when he spun Tamanoshima around at the edge and shoved the No. 3 maegashira out for a hard-fought win.
In a showdown of No. 5 maegashira wrestlers, Russian Roho was having no part of Takamisakari’s fun and games when he got both arms around his opponent before lifting him out shortly after the face off.
Takamisakari went through his usual pre-bout face slapping routine but it did little to throw Roho off his game.
Bulgaria’s Kotooshu also got off to a winning start when he absorbed a blow from Kakizoe at the face off before swatting the fourth-ranked maegashira down at the center of the ring.
Kotooshu, who is also fighting as a No. 4 maegashira, barely broke a sweat in a bout that lasted under 10 seconds.
Komusubi Kotomitsuki restored a little pride for the locals when he deployed a series of powerful arm thrusts to send Georgian-born No. 3 maegashira Kokkai sprawling to the dirt surface.
Further down the ranks, eleventh-ranked maegashira Asasekiryu got a grip on the back of Kyokushuzan’s belt and muscled the No. 10 maegashira out for an opening-day win in a showdown of Mongolian grapplers.
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