FUKUOKA – Hakuho captured his fifth consecutive title on Sunday, defeating rank-and-filer Toyonoshima in a playoff on the final day of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.
The Mongolian yokozuna, who rebounded from the devastation of failing to tie Futabayama’s all-time wins streak of 69 bouts, was cooler than ice in his final match of the year after both wrestlers ended regulation with 14-1 records at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.
The victory was Hakuho’s career 17th, the yokozuna overcoming the psychological bump of losing to Kisenosato on the second day of the 15-day meet, which snapped his winning run at 63 bouts.
Hakuho took the charge from Toyonoshima, a former sekiwake who is currently a No. 9 maegashira, and calmly shoved his opponent down from the rear after deftly maneuvering around him.
“This year there was a lot that happened, so I really wanted to finish off strong,” Hakuho said. “I am really tired. I wasn’t able to break Futabyama’s record but I believe I did repay some of my debt of gratitude,” he said.
Hakuho tossed Kotooshu (8-7) aside like a rag doll in the final regulation bout, getting his hand on the Bulgarian ozeki’s mawashi knot before slamming him down to set up the playoff.
Toyonoshima, who was awarded both the Fighting Spirit and Technique Prizes, was looking to become the first rank-and-filer wrestler to win a title since former ozeki Kotomitsuki achieved the feat as a No. 2 maegashira at the 2001 autumn meet.
He also would have been the first Japanese to cart home the silverware since former ozeki Tochiazuma won the 2006 New Year meet.
“I am glad that Toyonoshima really did his best to fight hard in front of all the fans today. Today I also matched my father who was a grand champion in Mongolian sumo for consecutive title wins, so I am happy,” Hakuho said.
Toyonoshima pulled off a death-defying feat in his bout against yokozuna destroyer Kisenosato (10-5), escaping the No. 1 maegashira’s clutches at the edge of the ring before deploying a swift left-handed throwing maneuver.
Kisenosato won the Outstanding Performance Prize for his giant-killing antics.
In an all-ozeki rumble, hometown favorite Kaio sent Baruto tumbling to the dirt like ton of bricks when he grabbed a wayward arm to pull his opponent off balance for his 12th win, leaving the Estonian goliath at 11-4.
Crowd favorite Takamisakari went out on a high note, picking up a majority of wins by toppling Mokonami (7-8) in an earlier bout.
Georgian Gagamaru bulldozed Shotenro (9-6) in a lopsided affair to finish at 9-6.
“This was an exciting meet till the very end,” said Japan Sumo Association chairman Hanaregoma.
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