Perfect Hakuho wins title


Yokozuna Hakuho secured the Emperor’s Cup for the 24th time with a dominant win over Goeido, capturing the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament title with two days to spare on Friday.

Hakuho breezed to his 13th victory in as many days, slamming sekiwake Goeido (8-5) — an opponent he beat for the 18th time in 19 career fights — with his left hand to join former yokozuna Kitanoumi in fourth place for all-time championships.

The stage had been set for Hakuho after his nearest challenger, seventh-ranked maegashira Okinoumi, suffered his third defeat earlier at the hands of Tochiozan (8-5).

Hakuho’s eastern counterpart Harumafuji was anything but a grand champion, dropping to 9-4 after backpedaling out of the ring against ozeki Kakuryu (8-5).

“It’s a great feeling,” the 28-year-old Hakuho said. “I wanted to mark this championship with a win. I didn’t want the title to fall into my lap so I’m pleased with the way things turned out.

“I was training really well before the basho and that has been the difference here.”

Hakuho said it was an honor to tie Kitanoumi, who is now head of the Japan Sumo Association.

“It was a goal of mine for this year,” the Mongolian said. “I couldn’t be happier to be sitting side by side a true legend from the Showa era.”

Okinoumi saw his six-day winning streak come to a screeching halt at the hands of Tochiozan, who was on a roll of his own, having won his last four bouts.

Over their careers, Okinoumi held the slight edge on Tochiozan with three wins out of five previous meetings. But Okinoumi appeared nervous Friday, and allowed Tochiozan to remain in control throughout the bout.

Okinoumi repeatedly reached for the belt from the tachiai, but Tochiozan did well to keep him off before grabbing the mawashi himself.

Tochiozan made the rest look easy, pushing his man to secure a winning record for the tournament — and paving the way for Hakuho to add another chapter to his illustrious career.

Kitanoumi said Hakuho is good enough and young enough to reach the 30-title plateau some day. The late Taiho holds the career record with 32.

“I know Hakuho is eyeing bigger things,” Kitanoumi said. “He has a very good chance of getting to 30. Hakuho has the flexibility to keep up with any opponent, and it’s a huge reason why he’s been so consistent in his career.”

  • Hakuho always seemed to have that determination, although he has look a little nervous and unsteady at times during this basho. However, once his confidence was up there was really going to be no stopping him. Harumafuji will get back to number one position at some stage. He just needs to work on his confidence and his nerve under pressure.