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Aminishiki steals show at Kyushu Basho

Kyodo

A day after yokozuna Hakuho wrapped up the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament championship, 13th-ranked Aminshiki provided the final day’s drama on Sunday.

Back in the elite makuuchi division for the first time in a year since he ruptured his left Achilles tendon on May 9, 2016, the 39-year-old secured a winning 8-7 mark by throwing down No. 6 Chiyoshoma (7-8) at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.

The oldest wrestler to re-earn admission to the makuuchi division, Aminishiki latched onto Chiyoshoma’s belt as the two got to grips at mid-ring. Using his right overarm hold, Aminishiki spun the Mongolian around by the upper body until his legs could no longer keep him upright.

After the first 10 days of the tournament, Aminishiki held a 7-3 record, one win from locking up a place for himself in the upper division for the next tournament in January. But he lost four straight.

“There was nothing to do but keep plugging away,” he said as tears flowed in his postmatch interview. “My family battling by my side made this possible, but (those losses) showed my numerous weaknesses. I was plagued with doubt. But in the end I was able to perform good sumo and this was the final result.”

Aminishiki’s epic comeback was recognized with a Fighting Spirit prize, his first since he made his makuuchi debut in July, 2000, at the age of 21.

“I never imagined this would come my way,” he said. “I’m grateful.”

Joining Aminishiki as winners of the three special prizes were the two rank-and-file maegashira wrestlers who took the championship race down to the penultimate day: 27-year-old No. 3 Hokutofuji and 32-year-old No. 12 Okinoumi, his Hakkaku stablemate. Both finished the tournament with two straight losses to finish at 11-4.

Okinoumi received his third career Fighting Spirit prize, while Hokutofuji, who claimed the scalps of one yokozuna and two ozeki, won a Technique prize, the first special prize of his career.

Top-ranked maegashira Takakeisho, who vanquished one ozeki and a pair of yokozuna, won the Outstanding Performance prize for the second straight tournament.

In other results, Onosho defeated No. 5 maegashira Takarafuji (7-8) to secure a winning record in his debut at komusubi, sumo’s fourth-highest rank. In the year’s finale, Hakuho (14-1) outlasted ozeki Goeido (9-6) in an intense battle and finished him with an overarm throw.

“I came to this country as a 62-kg, 15-year-old boy that nobody would have predicted would be where I am now,” said Hakuho after receiving his trophy.

“The sumo gods and this country made me into a 40-time champion.”