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Hakuho triumphs to claim 35th career title

Kyodo

Hakuho outlasted fellow Mongolian yokozuna Kakuryu in the final bout of regulation to extend his all-time record of career titles to 35 on Sunday at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.

Hakuho (14-1) had spurned the chance to win a seventh consecutive title when he fell in a final-day defeat to another yokozuna, Harumafuji, at the last tournament in May, but there was to be no repeat of that slip-up at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.

Needing a win to force a playoff, Kakuryu had Hakuho up against the bales but Hakuho came back to counter and lifted his opponent over the ridge to secure the championship.

“I was relaxed because I knew if I had lost, I still had a chance in the playoff,” said Hakuho, who got in a dig after an analyst hinted the Mongolian’s power might be on the decline.

“In the early stages, someone — I’m not saying who — said I might be slipping,” he said. “But perhaps now that I’m champion, I can expect some warmer support.”

Asked if the victory was a statement that he was still the No. 1, Hakuho said, “I think I’ve showed enough to prove that.”

In other bouts of note, Kotoshogiku left it late but secured his ozeki status with an eighth win against summer meet champion Terunofuji, who posted a respectable 11-4 record on his ozeki debut.

Kotoshogiku, who came into the tournament with his rank on the line for the fifth time after a “makekoshi” 6-9 record in May, moved left at the charge, and as Terunofuji surged forward, he slapped him down to the sandy surface.

In another all-ozeki matchup, Goeido (9-6) set the stage for the final bout of the tournament between the yokozuna pair by thrusting out Kisenosato (10-4).

No. 8 maegashira Yoshikaze outsmarted sekiwake Tochiozan for a 12th win and also won the Fighting Spirit Prize, one of three prizes given to makuuchi wrestlers by the Japan Sumo Association on the last day of a grand tournament.

Tochiozan, who beat both Hakuho and Kakuryu here and finished with a 10-5 mark, was awarded the Outstanding Performance Prize.

In a match between two wrestlers who have badly underperformed at this tournament, Mongolian sekiwake Ichinojo muscled out third-ranked maegashira Ikioi for just his fourth win. Ikioi closed with a 2-12 record.

No. 5 maegashira Okinoumi scored an 11th win in barging out 14th-ranked Kagamio, who had been tied for the lead for much of the tournament before fading and finishing at 9-6.

Eighth-ranked Egyptian Osunaarashi also finished with a flourish, railroading Bulgarian No. 2 maegashira Aoiyama (8-4) for an 11-4 mark.

In the day’s opening makuuchi bout, Endo (10-5) closed with double-digit wins, the popular No. 12 maegashira getting the better of 10th-ranked Russian Amuru (8-7).

Veteran Mongolian grappler Kyokutenho left the dohyo in tears after losing what looks to be the last bout of his career.

The 40-year-old got lifted over the ring by top-ranked Tochinoshin (8-7) and finished with a 3-12 mark.

If he does go out, it will be in style — if countryman Hakuho has anything to say about it.

“My esteemed colleague who is going to call it quits after this tournament is going to ride with me at my victory parade,” Hakuho said.