• Kyodo News


A day after capturing his first career title by beating yokozuna Hakuho in a playoff on the final day of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament, ozeki Harumafuji was still shaking his head in disbelief.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would win the title. I am so happy,” Harumafuji said Monday.

The 25-year-old prevailed in an adrenaline-fueled encounter against his Mongolian countryman after both wrestlers finished the summer meet with 14-1 records. Next order of business? Of course, promotion to sumo’s ultimate rank of yokozuna.

“With all the expectations and nervousness my body heated up. When the yokozuna’s hand touched the dirt surface, I thought to myself, ‘I’ve won it!’ ” Harumafuji said.

Harumafuji, who changed his ring name from Ama upon his climb to sumo’s second-highest rank last November, struggled out of the blocks on his ozeki debut at the New Year meet in January, just passing the grade with an 8-7 mark.

He later posted a 10-5 record at the spring meet in March but it appears now that the sharpness that he displayed when he went 13-2 as a sekiwake at the Kyushu meet last year has returned. “I was able to wrestle my form of sumo at this tournament.”

Stablemaster Isegahama said Harumafuji’s return to form was the key to victory at the 15-day Tokyo meet. To get the nod for promotion to sumo’s highest rank, he will have to remain on the war path.

“It is important that I keep making efforts to win. I will give it my best,” said Harumafuji.

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