Ozeki Harumafuji pulled off the improbable Sunday by beating yokozuna Hakuho in a playoff to capture his first career title at the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament.
Harumafuji, the Mongolian dynamite formerly known as Ama, got an explosive jump at the faceoff before placing his left hand on the back of Hakuho’s mawashi and making his first attempt at an underarm throw at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
Hakuho, who was denied his quest for back-to-back titles, held his balance, but Harumafuji kept up the attack and used his right hand to sweep out the yokozuna’s knee for the triumph.
It was the first two-way playoff since yokozuna Asashoryu beat Hakuho to win the New Year meet in January.
Harumafuji, who at 126 kg is one of the lightest in the elite makuuchi division, became the eighth foreign grappler to win a title and third Mongolian wrestler following Asashoryu and Hakuho.
“I am really happy. I just tried to concentrate on my own sumo throughout this tournament. I wanted to respond to all of my fans,” said Harumafuji.
Hakuho captured his 10th career Emperor’s Cup at the spring meet with a 15-0 record and had been on a 33-bout winning tear in regulation bouts until he suffered a first loss at the hands of Kotooshu on the 14th day.
Asashoryu and rank-and-filer Kisenosato dropped out of the title race when Harumafuji came back from the jaws of defeat with a decisive blow against Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu in the day’s penultimate bout in regulation.
Harumafuji pushed his larger opponent to the edge with a fierce charge at the faceoff but Kotooshu regrouped to gain the advantage with a superior grappling position. All looked lost as Kotooshu (9-6) went in for the kill but Harumafuji rewrote the script, deploying a neck-twisting throw to send his opponent onto his back.
Hakuho disposed of rival Asashoryu in the final bout, getting his favored right leaning grip on his opponent before ushering him over the edge to set up the playoff with a 14-1 mark. Asashoryu finished at 12-3.
Kisenosato (13-2), who won his third Fighting Spirit Prize, heaved out Mongolian komusubi Kakuryu (9-6), who took the Technique Prize, also for the third time, for his dominant performance.
Injury-plagued Chiyotaikai, who was facing demotion from his ozeki rank for a record 13th time, pulled off a miracle with three consecutive wins to post a majority of victories after falling to a 5-7 record that put him on the bubble.
Chiyotaikai stopped Baruto dead in his tracks with a throat grab before toppling the Estonian sekiwake with a series of quick-fire shoves to save his ozeki rank. Baruto ended with a meager 4-11 mark.
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