Hakuho continues title march

Kyodo News

Yokozuna Hakuho remained on course for a third straight Emperor’s Cup with a routine victory over Kotoshogiku at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.

Unbeaten Hakuho improved his record to 8-0 while Asashoryu stayed hot on the heels of his fellow Mongolian yokozuna by overpowering Tochinonada in the day’s final bout at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Another Mongolian wrestler, 10th-ranked Kyokutenho, shares second place with Asashoryu on 7-1.

Hakuho stunned Kotoshogiku with a slap-and-thrust opening attack and was never in any danger from that point on. Komusubi Kotoshogiku appeared to hurt his knee when he crumpled to the sandy surface and limped back to the locker room with a 6-2 record.

In contrast Asashoryu, back on the raised ring after serving a two-tournament ban, was made to work all the way for his win against Tochinonada (2-6), who put up a brave fight before succumbing to a powerful overarm throw by the yokozuna.

Asashoryu was hit with the two-meet ban last summer after he was caught playing soccer in Mongolia. He played even though he was supposedly carrying injuries that allowed him to sit out a regional sumo tournament.

The suspension triggered a stress-related illness and Asashoryu spent until the end of November in his homeland receiving treatment for the illness and other physical injuries.

In an all-ozeki matchup, veteran Kaio improved to 5-3 after muscling out Kotomitsuki, who has endured a disappointing tournament so far with only three wins to his name.

Kotooshu has not fared much better in the first half of the 15-day meet but the Bulgarian was able to ease his relegation fears by barging out Kisenosato.

Kotooshu, who needs to post at least three more wins here to retain his ozeki rank, and top-ranked maegashira Kisenosato are both at 5-3.