NAGOYA - A loss on the final day of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday could not wipe the smile from the face of newly crowned champion Mitakeumi.
The 25-year-old sekiwake, who clinched his first top-level title the previous day, finished with a 13-2 record after losing to No. 9 maegashira Yutakayama (12-3).
In a gripping bout, Mitakeumi nearly drove out Yutakayama before the maegashira fought his way back toward the middle.
As the pair jostled for advantage, Mitakeumi attempted a throw at the edge of the ring, but Yutakayama’s counter sent both men tumbling over the straw, with the new champion hitting the ground first.
After all three yokozuna and newly promoted ozeki Tochinoshin pulled out of the tournament due to injury, Mitakeumi seized the opportunity to lift his first Emperor’s Cup.
“It seems like (the tournament) almost flew past, but it also felt like a very long tournament,” an elated Mitakeumi said in his champion’s interview from the ring at Dolphins Arena.
“It’s simply awesome. I’ve never spoken in front of such a big crowd. I probably won’t remember what I said here.
“I wanted to end on a good note with a win, but I think I still need to get stronger. I wasn’t able to push my opponent out, so I think I’ll have to go back and practice.”
After hearing that local newspapers in his native Nagano Prefecture had printed extra editions to herald his championship, he said, “I hope to do well enough to cause more extras to be printed.”
Mitakeumi’s efforts at the 15-day tournament were also recognized with a third career Outstanding Performance Prize, as well as his second Technique Prize.
With his final-day victory, Yutakayama took second place outright and finished with his best result in the top division. His performance throughout the tournament also earned him his first Fighting Spirit Prize.
In the tournament’s final bout, Goeido (10-5) took just 2 seconds to beat Takayasu (9-6) in a battle of ozeki. As the pair collided at the jump, Goeido turned his opponent around and pushed him out from behind.
Sekiwake Ichinojo (8-7) secured a winning record and held onto his ranking with a quick victory over No. 6 Endo (8-7).
Endo drove hard into Ichinojo from the start but failed to budge the 225-kg Mongolian, who flung him backward onto the clay.
No. 3 Takakeisho (10-5) finished a second-consecutive tournament with double digits in wins by beating the other Fighting Spirit Prize-winner, No. 13 Asanoyama (11-4).
With an impressive run of performances, 21-year-old former komusubi Takakeisho looks likely to return to the three sanyaku rankings below yokozuna at the next grand tournament in September.
Mongolian-born Takanoiwa will make his return to the top flight after finishing as juryo division champion with a 13-2 record.
The former makuuchi wrestler was injured by Mongolian former yokozuna Harumafuji in an alcohol-fueled attack last November that led to the yokozuna being forced to retire from the sport.