Mongolian ozeki Hakuho was sent sprawling to a shock defeat against Kisenosato on Sunday, making a nightmare start to his campaign for yokozuna promotion on the first day of the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.
Hakuho showed his impatience as he immediately went in for the kill against his 20-year-old opponent but ended up with a head-full of dirt when the komusubi dragged the ozeki down on the edge at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.
The loss revealed Hakuho’s psychological frailness after failing to gain the nod to sumo’s ultimate rank despite a strong 13-2 performance at the Nagoya meet in July.
The 21-year-old could join fellow Ulan Bator native Asashoryu as grand champion regardless of whether he lifts the Emperor’s Cup with a 13-win showing or better this time out but he will have to rebound quickly, if he expects to convince the powers that be in the Japan Sumo Association.
In July, Hakuho was passed over despite beating Asashoryu on the final day of the Nagoya meet because he never posed a threat in the title race.
In the day’s finale on Sunday, Asashoryu made mincemeat of Georgian Kokkai, getting a firm grip on his komusubi opponent before driving him over the edge in textbook fashion.
The Mongolian grand champion is aiming to claim back-to-back title victories after winning the Nagoya meet and is the odds-on favorite as the sole grand champion.
In other key bouts, ozeki Tochiazuma, nursing a left knee injury, got off to a bumbling start after he was swatted down by Mongolian Tokitenku, who celebrated his 27th birthday with a strong win against his ozeki opponent.
Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu got a firm grip around Tamanoshima before ushering his heavier opponent over the straw bales for a convincing win, demonstrating that the ozeki is almost fully recovered from a nagging knee injury.
Kaio, however, was the second ozeki to bite the dust when he was wrapped up by Russian Roho, who grabbed his opponent from the back of his mawashi and shoved him to his knees onto the dohyo surface.
Chiyotaikai wasted little time with big man Baruto from Estonia, rolling over his opponent with a salvo of thrusts and slaps for a strong opening to the 15-day meet.
Kotomitsuki deployed a belt technique to toss aside Dejima but fellow sekiwake Miyabiyama, who is looking to regain his ozeki status after five years, saw his hopes dented when he was shoved down by Aminishiki from behind right after the face-off.
In the lower echelons, Russian Hakurozan escaped with a slim victory when he went into the spits but stayed in-bounds while Takekaze went sprawling to the dirt.
Crowd favorite Takamisakari held his head up proudly as he strutted back to the dressing room after grinding out Asasekiryu. It was the No. 9 maegashira’s first win to start a tournament since the Spring basho in March.
Mongolian trickster Kyokushuzan, who is suffering from a slight cold, did a quirky spin while teetering on the edge to shove out Kakizoe to notch a first-day win.
Ama went on an aggressive thrusting attack against Toyonoshima, shoving his opponent over the edge with a barrage of strikes to the chest.
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