OSAKA – Kisenosato won his yokozuna debut with ease Sunday, barreling out top-ranked maegashira Takekaze on the opening day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.
Sumo’s latest yokozuna, the 69th in the sport’s history, only needed a few quick shoves to beat Takekaze by oshidashi before a full house at Edion Arena Osaka.
Kisenosato, who became the first Japan-born yokozuna since Wakanohana in 1998 after capturing the New Year tournament in January, took his career record against Takekaze to 21-5 and will face komusubi Shodai on Monday.
Since sumo went to 15-day meets in 1949, only three wrestlers have won a tournament in their yokozuna debut — Taiho, Takanosato and Takanohana.
Sumo has not had four yokozuna competing at one tourney in 17 years, not since Akebono, Takanohana, Wakanohana and Musashimaru fought at the 2000 Spring Basho.
The fortunes for the three yokozuna other than Kisenosato — Hakuho, Harumafuji and Kakuryu — varied Sunday.
Shodai fired a warning shot at Kisenosato by recording his first career victory over Hakuho, who went down meekly at the hands of his opponent.
Shodai succeeded in keeping Hakuho off his belt before throwing the Mongolian off balance and thrusting him to the dirt, where Hakuho looked absolutely stunned.
“I went all out trying to wrestle the only way I know how to wrestle,” said Shodai, who defeated Hakuho in his third try. “I didn’t let him push me around. I’m really happy with this win.”
Harumafuji also got off on the wrong foot, losing at the hands of sekiwake Kotoshogiku, who improved his lifetime record against the Mongolian to 32-27.
Kakuryu managed to save face with his third win in four bouts against komusubi Mitakeumi.
In other notable matchups, the two ozeki in the field both prevailed. After missing the New Year Basho due to injury, Goeido marked his return with a victory over top-ranked maegashira Ikioi, while Terunofuji ousted No. 2 Sokokurai.