Ozeki Takakeisho suffered an upset Monday against rank-and-file opponent Daieisho as he opened the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament with back-to-back losses.
Fellow ozeki Asanoyama (1-1) bounced back from an opening-day defeat, while the other ozeki, Shodai, worked hard to remain perfect on Day 2 at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan, where entry has been capped at 5,000 spectators to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Takakeisho delivered a hard opening hit, but No. 1 maegashira Daieisho (2-0) held his ground and responded with a thrusting attack before slapping the November tournament winner to the clay.
The 24-year-old ozeki’s underwhelming start to the 15-day tournament may have jeopardized his bid for promotion to sumo’s highest rank of yokozuna.
Former sekiwake Daieisho, meanwhile, continues to make a strong case for promotion back to the three elite sanyaku ranks below yokozuna following his opening-day victory over ozeki Asanoyama.
“(Takakeisho) is ranked higher, so I had nothing to lose (and) I was able to attack first,” Daieisho said.
Establishing a strong grip at the jump, Asanoyama neutralized Hokutofuji’s (0-2) thrusting attack by keeping the No. 1 maegashira close before sending him tumbling with an arm throw.
In the day’s final bout, Shodai improved to 2-0 after withstanding a protracted battle against komusubi Takayasu.
Shodai had the momentum from the jump, but former ozeki Takayasu (0-2) rallied before eventually succumbing to a front crush out.
Both Shodai and Asanoyama are competing as demotion-threatened kadoban ozeki after failing to register winning records at the previous tournament. They each need at least eight victories here to remain at sumo’s second-highest rank.
The New Year meet is the first grand tournament to be held during a state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic, with 65 wrestlers, including 16 from the top two divisions, sidelined because of the virus.
That number includes yokozuna Hakuho, who tested positive for the coronavirus in the lead-up to the meet. The other yokozuna, Kakuryu, is out of action due to a lower-back injury.
Sekiwake Terunofuji (1-1) took his first loss after being bundled out by an aggressive No. 3 Onosho (2-0).
Onosho hit hard and low from the jump, leaving Terunofuji little chance to take a firm grip and prevent the former komusubi from driving him over the edge.
The 24-year-old Onosho said his previous loss to Terunofuji at the September tourney was on his mind coming into the bout.
“Last time (against him) I got caught, so this time I tried to keep Terunofuji away from my belt by staying low,” said Onosho. “Last year I wasn’t able to get back to sanyaku. But I want to get back there this year.”
Sekiwake Takanosho improved to 2-0 with a routine push-out victory over up-and-coming No. 3 Kotoshoho. The ozeki aspirant stayed on the front foot as he quickly dislodged the backpedaling Kotoshoho (0-2).
Having sensationally beaten Takakeisho on Day 1, komusubi Mitakeumi (1-1) followed up with a lackluster loss by push-out to No. 2 Takarafuji.
Takarafuji (1-1) blocked Mitakeumi’s initial attack before moving him off balance and quickly bundling him out.
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