Asashoryu stays in control at New Year

Yokozuna Asashoryu kicked off 2006 with a routine win, but Bulgarian bulldozer Kotooshu made a nightmare start on his ozeki debut after a shock loss to Roho on the opening day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.

News photoRoho flips ozeki Kotooshu to the ground on the opening day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Asashoryu, who won all six titles last year, continued where he left off in 2005, making mincemeat out of Tamanoshima, but Kaio was defeated at the hands of Miyabiyama in another upset for ozeki at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Asashoryu never looked in danger in the day’s finale, and the fiery Mongolian got a firm grip on both his opponent’s arms before sending him to the dirt with a well-worked pulling overarm throw.

While Asashoryu is the undoubted favorite to cart home an unprecedented eighth straight Emperor’s Cup, the spotlight here is firmly fixed on Kotooshu, whose meteoric rise to sumo’s second-highest rank comes after just 19 meets.

But Kotooshu, who recently revealed his hobby growing up was baking cakes soaked in caramel, choked on the pressure, and second-ranked Roho turned the gentle giant into fudge by flooring him with an overarm throw.

“I just wanted to keep him off the left side of my belt, and everything went as planned,” said Roho.

“Ozeki are strong, but so am I. I wanted to start the year with a win, and it was important not to allow my opponent to take the initiative.”

Despite the defeat, the meet is still likely to be a showdown between Asashoryu and Kotooshu, with usual suspects Kaio, Chiyotaikai and Tochiazuma, who is in danger of losing his rank for the sixth time, each struggling somewhere in the mix.

Tochiazuma began his battle against the drop by barging out top-ranked maegashira Tokitenku to post the first of eight wins he needs to preserve his ozeki rank.