OSAKA – Yokuzuna Hakuho stormed ahead to his eighth victory at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday, while another wrestler at the tourney — being held behind closed doors because of the COVID-19 outbreak — pulled out after running a high fever.
It was easy sailing for the Mongolian-born yokozuna in a quick win over No. 4 maegashira Abi (4-4) that left Hakuho leading two wrestlers with 7-1 records.
The 15-day meet entered its final week at Edion Arena Osaka under a cloud after No. 15 maegashira Chiyomaru recorded a fever of at least 37.5 Celsius for two straight days and withdrew. The Japan Sumo Association began the tournament on the understanding it would be canceled should either a wrestler or association member test positive for the coronavirus.
Chiyomaru (5-3), who defaulted his match against No. 17 Meisei (3-5), was examined at a hospital and returned to his Kokonoe stable’s training base, where he is being quarantined from other wrestlers. The wrestler is scheduled to be tested for influenza on Monday, and according to the JSA, he has consented to a test for the coronavirus if his fever persists and it appears he might be infected.
Hakuho, who is looking to extend his career record for grand tournament championships with his 44th, took a shove to the throat from Abi and absorbed a shove before yanking the maegashira to one side. As Abi crashed forward out of control, Hakuho clutched his opponent’s torso to break his fall.
No. 3 Mitakeumi lost his chance to stay one win back of Hakuho when he was beaten badly on the opening charge by yokozuna Kakuryu, who rammed home and drove him out, leaving both men at 6-2.
“The opening charge was the main thing,” Kakuryu said. “I was thinking only about how to execute my sumo, not about my opponent’s form.”
Sekiwake Asanoyama (6-2), who is chasing promotion to ozeki, fell to a second loss in three days.
Asanoyama beat No. 3 Yutakayama (3-5) on the charge, backed him to the straw and was poised to shove him out, when the maegashira evaded an awkward shove and the sekiwake’s follow through left him off balance. Yutakayama seized the moment, counterattacked and finished the match with a beltless arm throw.
No. 13 Aoiyama (7-1) had an easy time getting back on the winning track after suffering his first loss the day before. After the charge, No. 17 Daiamami (3-5) shifted his balance too far forward in search of a belt hold and was easily slapped down by the Bulgarian former sekiwake.
Ninth-ranked maegashira Takanosho also improved to 7-1 with an easy win when No. 6 Myogiryu (1-7) stumbled off balance on his opening charge and was easily pulled down to defeat.
Hakuho’s stablemate No. 12 Ishiura (6-2) stayed two wins off the pace by beating No. 14 Nishikigi (1-7).
No. 11 Chiyotairyu suffered his second loss, as 22-year-old makuuchi-division debutant Kotonowaka (6-2) repelled the heavier wrestler’s charge and then propelled him backward from the ring with a well-orchestrated series of shoves.
Ozeki Takakeisho maintained a relentless pursuit and shoved out komusubi Hokutofuji (2-6) to win his third straight bout and improve to 5-3.