Ozeki Kisenosato dispatched maegashira Ichinojo on Saturday and then cashed in on a slip-up by yokozuna Hakuho to capture his long-awaited first championship at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
After a near false start by No. 13 maegashira Ichinojo, Kisenosato (13-1) allowed his opponent to take the initiative at the charge. But he wasted little time in wrapping up the Mongolian behemoth and bundling him out of the ring on the penultimate day of action in the 15-day Tokyo meet.
The Tagonoura stable grappler sealed victory when nearest challenger Hakuho was sentenced to a stunning defeat in the day’s finale against fellow Mongolian Takanoiwa, leaving both with 11-3 marks.
“I’m happy,” said the 30-year-old Kisenosato, who has finally shed his tag as sumo’s nearly man, having come close so often in the past to winning the title.
He added: “I’ll do my work properly until the end. Tomorrow’s important. I have nothing but gratitude to everyone (who has supported me).”
Earlier, in a match between two wrestlers starting the day with 10-3 marks, Chinese No. 10 maegashira Sokokurai pulled off an upset by thrusting down komusubi Takayasu.
Top-ranked Mitakeumi pushed his win total into double figures, prevailing in a slugfest against eighth-ranked maegashira Hokutofuji (8-6).
Set for a drop to sekiwake from ozeki in March after back-to-back losing records, Kotoshogiku’s tournament took another downward turn after the 2016 New Year champion was forced out by third-ranked Ikioi (8-6) and condemned to his 10th loss.
Mongolian ozeki Terunofuji (4-10) suffered the same fate in the following bout as he was marched out of the ring by debutant sekiwake Shodai (6-8).