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.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5