OSAKA - Yokozuna Hakuho won his 34th career championship on the final day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, continuing his voyage into uncharted territory on Sunday.
Hakuho, who drained himself ragged in an all-out battle against rival yokozuna Harumafuji (10-5) in the finale to stave off a playoff against giant-killer Terunofuji, claimed his sixth consecutive Emperor’s Cup with a 14-1 mark to make him only the second man after Taiho to accomplish the feat twice.
“This was a befitting tournament to follow the New Year Basho where I was able to rewrite the record,” said, the Mongolian-born yokozuna, who surpassed Taiho as the all-time record holder with his 33rd career title in January.
“I was very satisfied with the way I fought in most of my bouts here, and I just believed in myself.”
Terunofuji (13-2) kept expectations high for an electrifying showdown against Hakuho, when he tossed down hometown favorite Goeido (8-7) with an impregnable armbar technique in a superb display of balance and power against the ozeki.
But despite having beaten Hakuho on the 13th day to end the yokozuna’s 36-bout winning streak, the odds for a come-from-behind victory were too great for Terunofuji as Hakuho proved one cut above Harumafuji, who went kicking and screaming before he was shown the exit at Bodymaker Colosseum.
Asked what his goal was coming into the 15-day Osaka meet after claiming the all-time mark, Hakuho said, “I had to search for something,” drawing laughter and applause from the crowd.
“I feel like I have grown one or two steps. That’s the type of sumo I wrestled.”
In the final bout, Hakuho and Harumafuji got into a shoving match before Harumafuji dug underneath and attempted several times to toss his opponent with an overarm throw. But Hakuho lined up his chest after securing a strong grip of the mawashi for the force-out.
“It’s been two years since I’ve won the Spring Basho. I want to thank all the Osaka fans. I don’t want to think of anything at the next meet. Let’s meet again next year!”
When asked about Terunofuji, Hakuho responded by saying, “In the near future I think he will be heading places. Let’s fight hard together.”
Terunofuji was aiming to become the first newly promoted sekiwake to win a championship since ironman Futabayama did so at the 1936 Summer Basho.
“I’ll shoot for double-digit wins at the next tournament and hopefully that will lead to victory,” said Terunofuji, who won both the Outstanding Performance Prize (1) and Fighting Spirit Prize (2). “Now I just want to take a long rest.”
In the penultimate bout, Kisenosato (9-6) ushered out rival ozeki Kotoshogiku (8-7).
Chiyootori (11-4), who needed a win on Sunday to claim his first Fighting Spirit Prize, was left writhing in pain after he was crushed near the edge by Ichinojo (9-6), and had to be wheeled back to the dressing room nursing an injured left knee.
Earlier, Egyptian-born Osunaarashi finished his stellar campaign on a winning note with a hatakikomi smack down of Chiyomaru (8-7) to earn his 11th victory.