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Hakuho crashes to stunning opening defeat at Autumn basho

Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho, the most successful yokozuna in sumo history, was handed a stunning upset defeat by komusubi Okinoumi on Sunday, the first day of the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.

After one false start, Okinoumi charged in and got a grip on the back of Hakuho’s belt and timed his follow-up to perfection, spotting an opening as the yokozuna retreated and surging forward to barge him out of the ring.

The victory was Okinoumi’s first against Hakuho in 13 meetings between the two.

“I don’t really remember much about it (the bout) but I am glad I won. I will be telling the wife about this one,” joked Okinoumi.

Hakuho, who won the Nagoya basho with a 14-1 record in July and is chasing his 36th Emperor’s Cup, was the only major casualty of the day at a sold-out Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Fellow yokozuna Kakuryu looked razor-sharp in the day’s penultimate matchup, trying a couple of leg trips before deciding to use route-one sumo to bulldoze Georgian komusubi Tochinoshin over the straw ridge.

Kakuryu, who scored 12 wins in Nagoya after missing the previous two tournaments owing to injury, is the only other yokozuna competing in the autumn basho.

Harumafuji is sitting out the 15-day meet due to a troubled right elbow that he will need treatment on until mid-October.

Also in the upper ranks, summer tourney champion Terunofuji toppled Bulgarian No. 1 maegashira Aoiyama to complete a clean sweep for wrestlers at sumo’s second-highest rank of ozeki.

Kisenosato, arguably the strongest contender at the ozeki rank to become the first Japanese-born wrestler to win a title since Tochiazuma in 2006, made short work of top-ranked maegashira Yoshikaze to post a routine yorikiri force-out win.

Kotoshogiku scraped together an 8-7 record on the final day of the Nagoya basho to avoid relegation and came into this tournament with a groin problem, but the ozeki had little trouble in smashing out Sadanofuji for a first win.

Like Kotoshogiku, Goeido has also had injury concerns and he was made to fight tooth and nail to post a thigh-grabbing push down win against Egyptian No. 2 maegashira Osunaarashi.

Promotion-chasing sekiwake Tochiozan, who beat two yokozuna in Nagoya and posted 10 wins, came back from the brink to counter and shove out third-ranked Sadanoumi.

Fellow sekiwake Myogiryu completed a triumphant day for sumo’s third rank with a hard-fought win over third-ranked Takayasu.

In an earlier bout, 13th-ranked Daieisho, the only newcomer to makuuchi and the youngest in the elite division at 21, got off to a losing start as he was thrust down by Mongolian grappler Tokitenku.