Hakuho makes winning start at New Year basho

Kyodo News

Yokozuna Hakuho came bursting out of the blocks in his bid to win consecutive titles, overpowering fellow Mongolian Kakuryu on the first day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.

With Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko watching from above from the VIP section, Hakuho bided his time before making a fierce charge to topple the komusubi over the edge at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.

The odds-on favorite here, Hakuho is in the hunt for his 13th career title and has a 25-bout winning streak extending back to the autumn meet in September last year.

Rival yokozuna Asashoryu, meanwhile, made mincemeat out of Kotoshogiku, getting his right hand on his opponent’s belt before heaving the komusubi over the straw ridge.

Asashoryu is seeking his 25th Emperor’s Cup after finishing the Kyushu meet with a sub-par 11-4 performance.

It was a day of mixed blessings for sumo’s second-highest rank of ozeki.

Bulgarian Kotooshu, who normally has trouble handling the sticky Toyonoshima, had no difficulty against the diminutive grappler this time, tackling the No. 1 maegashira into the ringside seats with a vengeance that drew gasps of surprise from the crowd.

Mongolian ozeki Harumafuji was too savvy for Georgian Tochinoshin, sending the top-ranked maegashira tumbling with a well-timed twist-down technique after a brief standstill.

But Kotomitsuki was once again the victim of his overzealousness against No. 2 maegashira Goeido, who claimed victory by deploying the same underarm throw technique he used to send the ozeki packing at the Kyushu meet in November.

Veteran ozeki Kaio bumped heads with Miyabiyama but could get nothing rolling against the No. 2 maegashira and was forced out of the ring on his heels.

Kaio, who will turn 38 on Jan. 24, needs one more win to match former yokozuna great Chiyonofuji with 807 victories for first on the all-time list in the elite makuuchi division.

Chiyotaikai, who has fallen from grace to sekiwake after 66 tournaments at sumo’s second-highest rank, was sent backpedaling over the edge by Kisenosato.