Asashoryu capitalized on a slip up by yokozuna rival Hakuho to grab a share of the lead heading into the home stretch at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Tuesday.
Asashoryu witnessed Hakuho fluff his lines and crash to his first defeat of tournament against Ama and then took full advantage with a turbocharged display against Wakanosato in the day’s final bout at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
Asashoryu and Hakuho both have 9-1 records with five days of the 15-day basho remaining, as does another Mongolian bruiser, Kyokutenho, who kept his championship hopes alive by tugging down Tochiozan.
In the day’s big upset, Ama (6-4) weathered a flurry of shoves from Hakuho and gained control before tipping the stunned yokozuna onto the clay surface with a clinical “uwatenage” throw.
Asashoryu has ridden his luck on more than one occasion on his return from a two-tournament ban here, but the bully from Ulan Bator looked back to his devastating best as he disposed of veteran Wakanosato with minimal fuss.
The 21-time Emperor’s Cup winner steamed straight into Wakanosato at the charge and sent the No. 4 maegashira backpedaling across the dohyo before completing the demolition with a meaty shove.
Extra helpings of “chankonabe” hotpot have done the trick at this tournament for No. 10 maegashira Kyokutenho and he joined his compatriots in the lead by yanking down 15th-ranked Tochiozan (6-4).
No. 12 maegashira Futeno and eighth-ranked Kakuryu are both one win off the pace at 8-2 after victories over Kokkai (6-4) and Takekaze (7-3), respectively.
Meanwhile, it was another triumphant day for ozeki wrestlers as veteran Kaio and Kotooshu kept their slim title hopes alive, with Kotomitsuki also posting a convincing victory.
Kotomitsuki escaped a bear hug from Roho (3-7) and sent the rugged Russian over the straw bales with a pulling overarm throw to level his record at 5-5, while relegation-threatened Kotooshu moved within one win of safety in the next bout.
Kotooshu had little trouble in dealing with Asasekiryu (7-3), the Bulgarian pummeling his fourth-ranked opponent into a pulp to score a seventh win.
Kotooshu came into the tournament with his ozeki status on the line, but victory over Asashoryu on Wednesday will see him retain his place at sumo’s second-highest rank.