Veteran No. 4 maegashira Myogiryu remained unbeaten after the fifth day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Thursday to take the sole lead in the 15-day meet at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.
The 34-year-old Myogiryu started the day in a two-way tie with Mongolian sekiwake Terunofuji. But the sekiwake, seeking 10 wins in his bid for re-promotion to the sport’s second-highest rank of ozeki, was beaten for the fourth time in five career bouts against No. 1 Onosho.
Myogiryu was challenged by mountainous 2-meter Mongolian Ichinojo, but kept the No. 6 maegashira under pressure and eventually forced him out to his second loss. Myogiryu, who needed to win his last two bouts in January to clinch a winning record at the New Year tourney, improved to 11-4 in his career against Ichinojo.
“I’m moving really well right now,” Myogiryu said.
For the second tournament in a row, Terunofuji was stung by a strong charge from Onosho (2-3), who kept the sekiwake from latching on to his belt with some well-timed shoves before seizing control and pushing him out.
“I wanted to keep it simple,” Onosho said. “If he went for a belt hold, I was going to shove him back.”
Terunofuji’s loss drops him back into a group of seven wrestlers chasing Myogiryu for the makuuchi division lead with 4-1 records.
The tournament is being contested without the sport’s two yokozuna. Kakuryu pulled out before the meet with a hamstring injury, while Hakuho, winner of a record 44 grand tournament championships, quit after the second day due to a knee injury that will require surgery.
Their absence has put the ozeki trio of Shodai, Takakeisho and Asanoyama in the spotlight. Shodai and Takakeisho, however, each lost their bouts to the two No. 2 maegashira before Asanoyama spared the rank’s blushes with a win in the day’s final bout.
No. 3 Meisei did a good job of keeping Asanoyama off his belt but gave ground in the process and found himself being forced back out of the ring as the ozeki improved to 4-1.
Hokutofuji (3-2), who beat Shodai on Wednesday, made it two wins over ozeki opponents in two days by beating Takakeisho (3-2). The ozeki needs eight wins here to avoid relegation to sekiwake after failing to win eight in January.
Shodai (2-3) was bundled out by Wakatakakage (2-3).
Sekiwake Takanosho improved to 4-1 with an easy victory over winless No. 1 maegashira Takarafuji, whom he’s beaten in four of their five career bouts.
January champion Daieisho ended his four-match losing streak to start the tournament by shoving out fellow komusubi Mitakeumi (3-2).
Komusubi and former ozeki Takayasu improved to 4-1, repelling the charge of No. 4 Kiribayama (2-3) and surviving a slap-down attempt before driving the maegashira wrestler from the ring.
Popular No. 8 Tobizaru improved to 3-2 by outlasting No. 10 Midorifuji (2-3) and forcing him out in a marathon bout that lasted more than 2 minutes. The crowd celebrated the victor with a prolonged round of applause.
Afterward, Midorifuji said, “At the end I was just gassed. I think his willpower was the difference.”
The March tourney is traditionally held in Osaka, where it was contested a year ago as the first grand tournament behind closed doors. But amid the difficulties posed by the ongoing pandemic, the Japan Sumo Association chose to stage its fifth straight tourney in Tokyo.
A total of 28 lower-ranked wrestlers have been ruled out from the meet for coronavirus-related reasons, compared to 65 sidelined in January.
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