Tamakasuga improves to 7-0

Kyodo News

Unheralded Tamakasuga extended his unbeaten run Saturday to stay one win clear of Mongolian grand champion Asashoryu heading into the second week of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

News photoEleventh-ranked maegashira Tamakasuga, right, forces Tosanoumi out of the ring on the seventh day of the
New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Saturday at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Asashoryu kept the 11th-ranked maegashira in his sights by tearing down compatriot Ama to improve to 6-1 but the chasing pack was cut to three after defeats for ozeki Chiyotaikai and sekiwake Kotomitsuki.

Tamakasuga, who celebrated his 35th birthday last week, made short work of Tosanoumi (2-5) in an earlier bout as he stunned the 16th-ranked maegashira with a series of slaps and pulling him down to retain a perfect 7-0 mark.

In the day’s final bout at Ryogoku Kokugikan, Asashoryu bided his time as Ama looked for an opening, but the yokozuna showed his class and sent the fourth-ranked maegashira flying to the dirt with a well-timed arm-bar throw.

Asashoryu is aiming to become only the fifth wrestler in sumo history to capture a 20th Emperor’s Cup and is also seeking to extend his winning streak to four tournaments.

In other bouts of note, Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu stopped Dejima (2-5) in his tracks and squashed the former ozeki at the edge of the ring to sit a further win off the pace at 5-2, but relegation-threatened Mongolian ozeki Hakuho slipped to a third loss at the hands of Tokitenku (3-4).

Hakuho, who posed the biggest threat to Asashoryu last year but entered this tournament with his rank on the line after missing the Kyushu meet in November through injury, got spun around and was unable to turn the tables as Tokitenku barged the ozeki out for the win.

In the following bout, perennial underachiever Chiyotaikai’s title hopes took a blow as he was pulled off-balance and slapped down to a second loss by third-ranked maegashira Kyokutenho (3-4).