With all the talk of Hakuko’s one-man wrecking machine, it is easy to forget the lurking presence of two ozeki who are bidding to give the lone yokozuna a run for his money.

Hakuho escaped sudden defeat with a last-gasp throw against Homasho to remain on track for his sixth consecutive title as the only wrestler with an undefeated mark of 9-0 at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Monday.

Meanwhile, Estonian goliath Baruto shot down fellow ozeki Harumafuji, while Kotooshu outclassed Tokusegawa to stay one behind the yokozuna with 8-1 records.

In the day’s final bout, Hakuho got a belt grip, only to lose his balance as Homasho (4-5) came charging forward to knock him over. But the yokozuna quickly recovered as he sent the No. 4 maegashira tumbling with a thrust-down technique while raised on one leg.

“I feel some fatigue,” said Hakuho, who has a slight cold. “It’s a good thing that I was able to get that win even in a close bout like that. That was a gift from God.”

Kotooshu got a firm belt grip on Tokusegawa’s (5-4) mawashi and went on a runaway express to remove his opponent from the ring in a matter of seconds.

Baruto survived a scare when he bent backward with his toes hugging the straw bales after a series of fierce thrusts from demotion-threatened Harumafuji (6-3), recovering to send his rival onto his back with one hard shove.

In another bout of note, veteran ozeki Kaio sent sekiwake Kotoshogiku (7-2) sprawling.

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