NAGOYA - Yokozuna Hakuho survived a scare against new komusubi Abi on Sunday to open the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament with a win and start off strong in his campaign for a record-extending 43rd championship.
On the first day of action at Dolphins Arena, Hakuho was taken by surprise following a spirited offensive from Abi and looked momentarily in danger of an opening-day upset.
But the Mongolian yokozuna, who sat out the last tournament to nurse a right arm injury, adjusted fast to spin Abi around and down, exacting revenge for a loss to the komusubi last year in May, the only other time the wrestlers had fought.
His yokozuna counterpart Kakuryu also secured a Day 1 victory, apparently unfazed by an injury sustained during practice Monday as he easily dispatched komusubi Ryuden.
Among the ozeki, Takayasu put No. 1 maegashira Hokutofuji on the ropes from the outset and was able to drive him out, while Goeido and Tochinoshin each opened with a loss at the 15-day tourney in Nagoya.
Goeido nearly recovered from an attack by No. 1 Asanoyama, but the 25-year-old maegashira, fresh off winning his maiden championship in May, kept the ozeki off balance to stay on top. Asanoyama faces Hakuho on Day 2.
Tochinoshin was defeated by No. 2 Endo in his first bout since regaining ozeki status. While the Georgian put his strength into a shoulder charge, Endo went for a right-handed belt hold and pulled his opponent down to claim a third straight win over Tochinoshin.
Both sekiwake suffered opening day losses. No. 2 Aoiyama claimed a quick slap-down win over Mitakeumi, while No. 3 Shodai stood his ground against a strong charge from Tamawashi and a powerful left-handed slap sent the Mongolian down to the clay.
In his makuuchi debut, No. 10 Takagenji was driven to the edge by No. 11 Nishikigi, but recovered for a push-out to record his first win in the top division.
Earlier on Sunday, the Japan Sumo Association revealed that Takakeisho — who was injured in his ozeki debut in May and failed to secure a winning record — will require five weeks of medical treatment for a right knee injury, ensuring his absence from the tournament and the loss of his status.
The 22-year-old can earn a promotion back to sumo’s second highest rank if he wins 10 or more bouts at the rank of sekiwake at September’s Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo.