Komusubi Mitakeumi handed yokozuna Hakuho his first loss on Wednesday, returning from injury to pull off the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament’s biggest surprise so far.
Mitakeumi (6-2-3), who missed three days of competition with an injured left leg, faced the unenviable task of battling the sole leader and 41-time champion Hakuho (10-1) in his return bout on Day 11 of the 15-day tournament at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
But the 26-year-old charged low and hard at Hakuho who, unable to secure a grip, found himself positioned too high to avoid being quickly driven from the ring.
Mitakeumi, who won his maiden top-level title in July, said he was in good condition and determined to finish the tournament strongly.
“I’m fine. I didn’t want to succumb to my injuries. I wanted to do my best for the remainder of the tournament,” the Dewanoumi stable wrestler said.
“(Hakuho) is strong, so I wanted to wrestle in my style.”
The result opens the door for sekiwake Tamawashi (9-2) to tie for the lead when he battles fellow Mongolian Hakuho on Thursday.
In outright second, Tamawashi sustained his bid for a maiden championship with a fifth straight win, this one coming against former ozeki Kotoshogiku (4-7).
After absorbing a hard charge at the jump, Tamawashi was backed to the edge of the ring, but remained in control by hooking his arm under Kotoshogiku’s to prevent being forced out. Tamawashi circled behind Kotoshogiku, who spun to meet him face to face, but was unable to hold his ground.
Sekiwake Takakeisho (8-3) improved his chances of promotion, to ozeki, by securing a winning record with a victory over Hokutofuji (6-5).
After a powerful collision, the two exchanged slaps and shoves in the center, but Takakeisho used his lower center of gravity and superior positioning to push his way to victory.
“We’re both pusher-thrusters. I didn’t want to lose mentally,” said Takakeisho, winner of the previous tournament in November.
“I happened to win last time (but) this tournament is completely different.”
Struggling ozeki Takayasu (6-5) moved closer to a winning record by overpowering No. 4 Okinoumi (6-5).
Takayasu opened with a strong forward charge, getting a grip with both hands while continuing to advance. With Okinoumi digging his feet into straw, Takayasu dropped low to get the leverage for a quick frontal force out.
Fellow ozeki Goeido improved to 5-6 with a quick slap-down win over No. 5 Aoyama (6-5).
No. 8 Kaisei and No. 9 Endo also secured winning records and stayed in mathematical contention by moving to 8-3.
Kaisei got there with a frontal force out against No. 6 Chiyotairyu (6-5), maintaining a head-to-head win streak stretching back more than five years.
“I’m happy. I’m in good physical condition and I’m feeling well. I’m glad I’ve been able to wrestle to my style,” Kaisei said.
No. 15 Chiyonokuni, who was outright second overnight, withdrew with an injured left knee and dropped to 8-3 after forfeiting his bout against No. 10 Abi (7-4).