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Yokozuna Harumafuji beats Goeido in playoff to win ninth career title

Kyodo

Mongolian yokozuna Harumafuji came from behind to beat Goeido in a dramatic playoff on Sunday to capture his ninth career title on the final day of the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.

Harumafuji entered the last day of the 15-day meet trailing Goeido by one win and needing victory against the ozeki in the final bout of regulation to force a championship playoff at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

And the yokozuna came through in dominating fashion, getting both hands locked onto the front of Goeido’s belt before shunting him over the edge to leave both men with 11-4 records.

Harumafuji was in total control in the playoff too, tearing into the ozeki at the tachiai and charging him out to complete the turnaround.

“I wanted to wrestle (in the playoffs) in such a way that I’d have no regrets and just gave it my best shot,” Harumafuji said after the dust had settled.

Harumafuji’s path to glory here was eased somewhat with the injury-enforced withdrawals of three yokozuna — Hakuho, Kakuryu and Kisenosato — and two ozeki — Takayasu and Terunofuji.

Elsewhere, fifth-ranked maegashira Takakeisho (9-6), who posted wins over both Goeido and Harumafuji, won his first Outstanding Performance Prize, one of three prizes the Japan Sumo Association gives to makuuchi-division wrestlers on the final day of a grand tournament.

“It’s my first experience (with so many elite wrestlers out),” Harumafuji said. “At the start of the tournament, my technique and my spirit were out of synch. But as the tournament went on, I just focused on the next bout, trying not to think too much and hoping the results will follow.”

Third-ranked Onosho (10-5), who also beat Harumafuji, won his second Fighting Spirit Prize, while 16th-ranked maegashira Asanoyama picked up his first after posting a 10-5 mark on his debut in sumo’s top flight.

“It (winning the prize) is not something I was conscious of but I went aggressive into the bout and that led to the win,” Asanoyama said after wrapping up an impressive tournament with victory over third-ranked Chiyotairyu (8-7).

Asanoyama was in title contention until he suffered his fifth defeat on Saturday.

“That’s been a good experience,” said the 23-year-old. “I have fought with the spirit of a challenger over the 15 days and that has led to my finishing with double figures in wins. I am really happy about that.”

Thirty-five-year-old Yoshikaze, who finished at 8-7 after losing on the final day against fellow sekiwake Mitakeumi (8-7), was awarded the Technique Prize for the fourth time.

Ticket giveaway

The Japan Times has two tickets for “Grand Sumo Beyond 2020” to give away to readers.

The event, organized by the Japan Sumo Association, will be held on Oct. 4 at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan to promote sumo and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Doors open at noon and events will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

To apply, send your name, address, postal code, phone number, the name of the giveaway and a comment on the publication by fax to The Japan Times Sports Desk (03-3453-4787), or post to Sumo Giveaway, Sports Division, The Japan Times, 4-5-4 Shibaura, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 108-8071, or apply online at jtimes.jp/onsunday by Sept. 28.