Harumafuji off to strong start on opening day of Autumn Basho


Mongolian ozeki Harumafuji kicked off his third bid for promotion to sumo’s highest rank of yokozuna with a powerful, if hesitant, win over Bulgarian komusubi Aoiyama on the opening day of the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.

Grand champion Hakuho, meanwhile, dodged a bullet in the day’s finale against Tochinoshin before manhandling the Georgian komusubi in dominant fashion for a first-day win at the 15-day meet at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Harumafuji, who won the Nagoya meet in July with a perfect 15-0 record for his third career title, let his opponent do all the thrusting at first and stepped back once before getting a left hand on top of Aoiyama’s mawashi for a comfortable frontal takeout.

Hakuho, seeking his 23rd career title and first in three meets, was never fooled by Tochinoshin who jumped sideways to the right, and the yokozuna pulled his opponent off-balance to switch to a favored right-leaning stance before escorting him over the straw bales.

Bulgarian Kotooshu dispensed with Russian Aran with minimal fuss in a textbook frontal force out, while fellow ozeki Kakuryu of Mongolia tossed down the roly-poly Gagamaru by using a pulling overarm throw.

The sole casualty for sumo’s second-highest rank was Estonian Baruto, who limped off the dohyo after his bout against Brazilian Kaisei in what clearly should have been a victory for the ozeki.

The referee inexplicably awarded the gumbai to Kaisei, although video replay showed the Brazilian’s hand smacking the dirt surface first, and the call stood without a judges’ ringside conference.

Kotoshogiku steamrolled Shohozan in a lopsided affair in the fourth fight by an ozeki, while Kisenosato got his left hand under the armpit of Myogiryu after stopping once at the ring’s center and charged forward in a direct frontal pushout.

Asahisho got off to a flying start in his debut in the elite makuuchi division with a shove out of Tenkaiho. Chiyotairyu, who recently announced he has been diagnosed with diabetes, was slapped down by veteran Wakanosato in another early bout.