Asashoryu stayed on track to complete a fairy tale comeback at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament with a fiery win over Aminishiki on Sunday, the eighth day of the 15-day basho in Tokyo.
The Mongolian yokozuna lunged at Aminishiki (3-5) like a man possessed in the day’s finale at Ryogoku Kokugikan and preserved his unbeaten record by grabbing the sekiwake by the throat and sending him crashing onto his back.
Asashoryu’s win kept him on a collision course with fellow Mongolian yokozuna and championship favorite Hakuho, who also improved to a perfect 8-0 along with rank-and-filer Tochiozan.
Under pressure to deliver the goods or retire, Asashoryu came into the basho with his career and reputation on the line after missing part or all of the last three tournaments through injury.
But he has turned that pressure into power and looks more than capable of silencing his critics by winning his 23rd Emperor’s Cup.
Hakuho, winner of the last three tournaments and favorite to make it four in a row here, got more than he bargained for against surly komusubi Kisenosato in the preceding bout.
But the yokozuna finally got the upper hand in a mid-ring slapfest before swinging Kisenosato round by the arm and blasting him out to a fifth defeat.
Twelfth-ranked Tochiozan kicked off the day’s action in the lower reaches of the makuuchi division by easily beating Homasho (5-3) with a frontal push-out to cement his place among the leading trio.
Sekiwake Baruto stayed one win back after rebounding from Saturday’s defeat to Kotooshu, the Estonian behemoth weathering a vicious charge to get both arms round Chiyotaikai and heave the ozeki out of the dohyo.
“I just had to believe in myself,” said Baruto. “I wanted to take out my frustration in the ring after losing yesterday.”
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