FUKUOKA – Mongolian grand champion Asashoryu overpowered Roho to make a winning start at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.
Gunning for his third straight title, Asashoryu briefly lost control of the day’s final bout but quickly recovered to send Roho packing with an arm lock throw and maintain his unbeaten record after seven bouts with the komusubi.
Asashoryu is trying to nail the most victories in a single year for the fifth year in a succession, a feat only previously achieved by former yokozuna greats Taiho and Kitanoumi.
He is the red-hot favorite to take home the silverware after his main challenger this year, ozeki and countryman Hakuho, withdrew from the 15-day meet with a broken toe.
Elsewhere, local favorite Kaio lifted the roof off Fukuoka Kokusai Center with a quick-fire win over top-ranked maegashira Iwakiyama as all three ozeki prevailed on an upset-free opening day.
Kaio got off on the right foot in his latest battle to avoid relegation as the ozeki quickly wrapped up Iwakiyama and floored him with a right-handed belt throw.
Injury-weary Kaio is wrestling with his rank on the line for a record 10th time and needs to post at least eight wins at the 15-day meet to ensure ozeki status at the next tourney.
Tochiazuma followed up by dragging Ama around like a rag doll and flinging the wiry Mongolian to the sandy surface and Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu shunted out Kokkai to win an all-European battle against the Georgian komusubi.
Chiyotaikai saw off new komusubi Aminishiki with a series of trademark slaps and thrusts to complete victorious day for sumo’s second rank.
At sumo’s third rank of sekiwake, Kotomitsuki was given an almighty scare before forcing out second-ranked maegashira Futeno while former ozeki Miyabiyama dragged down second-ranked Kotoshogiku for an easy win.
In earlier bouts, Kakuryu, whose promotion has increased the number of Mongolians to eight in the makuuchi division, registered an explosive opening-day win over sumo clown Takamisakari, who left the ring nursing a cut lip.
But Asofuji, elder brother of Aminishiki, suffered defeat in his first bout in the top flight after being sent out from behind by Tosanoumi.
Asofuji and Aminishiki became only the ninth siblings to wrestle in sumo’s elite makuuchi division.
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