OSAKA – Hakuho capitalized on another slip-up by fellow Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu to take a giant step toward his 10th title at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Thursday.
Hakuho watched Asashoryu (10-2) stumble against Kotomitsuki (7-5) in the day’s penultimate bout at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium and took full advantage, beating ozeki Harumafuji to go two wins clear with three days of the 15-day meet remaining.
Hakuho (12-0) weathered a pair of early slaps from Harumafuji (7-5) and calmly worked his countryman toward the edge of the ring to force him out, and maintain his flawless record heading into the final furlong.
Hakuho could secure the Emperor’s Cup on Friday if he beats Kotooshu and Asashoryu loses to veteran grappler Kaio.
Asashoryu found himself in trouble early on in the preceding bout and despite his best efforts, he was unable to launch a counterattack as Kotomitsuki held firm to tip him over the straw bales.
Kotomitsuki came into the spring meet with his rank on the line after pulling out late in the New Year meet because of an ankle injury, but he can retain his ozeki status with victory over struggling Chiyotaikai on Friday.
Asashoryu beat Hakuho in a playoff on his return to the raised ring at the New Year meet for his 23rd title.
Bulgarian Kotooshu overpowered 36-year-old fellow ozeki Kaio to secure a winning record and leave both men at 8-4.
Meanwhile, Chiyotaikai’s disastrous tournament continued when he was sent tumbling to his 10th defeat at the hands of Miyabiyama.
Miyabiyama appeared to have violated sumo regulations by pulling down the ozeki by his topknot but ringside judges gave him the benefit of the doubt after watching a replay and awarded him a fourth win.
Estonian giant Baruto (5-7) notched only his second win in six bouts by lifting out Tochiozan (7-5), but Kisenosato was unable to complete a double for sumo’s third rank of sekiwake after he was thrown down to a seventh loss by Mongolian komusubi Kyokutenho (4-8).
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