Grand champion Asashoryu made a narrow escape from certain defeat Thursday, dispatching rank-and-filer Toyonoshima to stay one behind undefeated yokozuna Hakuho on the fifth day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
In the day’s penultimate bout, Asashoryu got embroiled in a fierce exchange of shoves with Toyonoshima before deploying a last-ditch overarm throw with his back precariously on the edge as both wrestlers fell to the dohyo surface at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
No. 2 maegashira Toyonoshima glanced over to the ringside judges for a possible appeal but the ruling stood in favor of Asashoryu, who improved to 4-1. Toyonoshima slipped to a 2-3 mark.
Asashoryu is eager to underscore his dominance upon his return to the raised ring after a two-tournament ban was lifted last November, but he is struggling to show his fiery brand of sumo after suffering a loss on the second day.
He was punished for playing soccer in Mongolia when he was supposedly carrying injuries that allowed him to sit out a regional sumo tournament last summer.
Asashoryu has a chance to tie former yokozuna great Takanohana for fourth on the all-time list by winning his 22nd career title at the 15-day Tokyo meet.
Hakuho, meanwhile, was burning on full cylinders, taking out Goeido (1-4) with a powerful overarm throw to move into sole possession of the lead.
The reigning Emperor’s Cup holder is seeking his sixth career title here.
In other major bouts, the doom and gloom faded for sumo’s ozeki rank, save for injury hit Chiyotaikai, sent to his fifth straight defeat at the hands of sekiwake Ama.
Relegation-haunted Kotooshu disposed of Tokitenku (1-4) to pick up a third win. The Bulgarian giant must notch a majority of eight wins this time out but still appears to lack the confidence worthy of sumo’s second-highest rank.
Injury prone Kaio gave the usually energized Dejima (2-3) a dose of his own medicine when he charged forward like a bull immediately after the face off for a convincing third win.
Kotomitsuki wasted little time getting inside for a two-handed grip around Miyabiyama (2-3) before forcing his opponent over the edge to snap a two-bout losing streak.