Ozeki Shodai handed Takayasu his second loss of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Wednesday, cutting the outright leader’s buffer to a single victory.
But the action inside the ring on Day 11 at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan was overshadowed by the retirement of Mongolian-born yokozuna Kakuryu, who decided to bring down the curtain after missing a fifth straight tournament due to injury.
The 35-year-old winner of six grand tournaments has dealt with long-term elbow and lower back problems, and pulled out before the start of the current 15-day meet with a left hamstring strain.
His withdrawal, along with that of Hakuho on Day 3, has left the tournament without a yokozuna.
The three ozeki sharing top billing in the absence of a yokozuna have each stumbled at times during the tournament, but all were victorious on the same day for the first time on Day 11.
Having struggled most notably of the three, Shodai (6-5) earned a much-needed result as he snapped Takayasu’s nine-bout winning streak and improved his career record against the former ozeki to 12-8.
Opening with a heavy shoulder hit, he prevented Takayasu (9-2) from taking a strong grip and spun him off balance on the way to victory by thrust down. The win was Shodai’s eighth straight in head-to-head meetings with Takayasu.
The tournament leader is now one win ahead of three wrestlers with 8-3 records — ozeki Asanoyama, sekiwake Terunofuji, and No. 8 maegashira Tobizaru.
Terunofuji bounced back from his Day 10 upset loss to No. 3 Shimanoumi (3-8) by claiming his first career win against fellow sekiwake Takanosho (6-5) in convincing fashion.
Following a solid opening hit, Terunofuji took a grip on Takanosho’s belt from behind and quickly hoisted him over the edge.
The big Mongolian remains on target for a remarkable promotion back to ozeki, a rank he last held in 2017 before injuries to both knees saw him plummet down into sumo’s lower divisions.
“I was able to concentrate on today’s match. I got over (yesterday’s loss). I’m only focusing on my own sumo,” Terunofuji said.
Asanoyama was in control throughout his bout against No. 4 Myogiryu (5-6), earning a comfortable win by frontal force out.
Demotion-threatened kadoban ozeki Takakeisho, who lost to Takayasu on Day 10, went to his tried-and-tested thrusting attack to drive out No. 4 Kiribayama (4-7) and improve to 7-4, just one win from the eight needed to keep his rank.
Komusubi Mitakeumi (5-6) faces an uphill battle to keep his place in the three sanyaku ranks below yokozuna after falling to No. 2 Hokutofuji (7-4), whose big-name victims at the current meet include Takakeisho, Shodai and Takanosho.
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