Ozeki Terunofuji was handed his first defeat of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament in unusual fashion Wednesday, when his 11th straight win was overruled by the ringside judges who ruled he had committed a foul.
The returning ozeki‘s defeat added fuel to the title race with fellow ozeki Takakeisho and No. 8 maegashira Endo now only a win behind and two more wrestlers also another win back at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
Terunofuji (10-1) was at his dominant best and looked to have eased to another victory by flooring No. 4 Myogiryu (5-6) with an armlock throw, using his powerful left arm.
But a ringside judge — a sumo elder — called for deliberation with his fellow judges on the raised ring and after review ruled Terunofuji’s right hand grabbed Myogiryu’s topknot, an act the ancient sport prohibits, while finishing off the throw. Video showed the ozeki’s hand brush his opponent’s hair as Myogiryu was in the process of tumbling to the sandy surface.
“I had no sensation of that occurring,” Myogiryu said when asked about the infraction. “But the decision is made.”
It was the first win by foul since January 2016 when then-ozeki Goeido was penalized against Takarafuji for the same violation.
The ruling gave a much-needed boost to other wrestlers who won their bouts.
Takakeisho (9-2) won with an exchange of slaps against sekiwake Takayasu (7-4) to retain his hope for his third Emperor’s Cup.
Although lacking in height, Takakeisho endured Takayasu’s shoves and instead forced the former ozeki to turn his back near the edge, eventually forcing him out from the back.
No. 8 Endo (9-2) also stayed in the chase after overcoming another in-form rank-and-filer, No. 14 Chiyotairyu (7-4).
Both charged cautiously, and while Endo appeared to loose traction briefly on the sandy surface, he recovered his balance, delivered a steady series of shoves that drove Chiyotairyu out.
No. 6 Ichinojo (8-3) pushed out No. 12 Kotoeko (6-5), while No. 12 Okinoumi (8-3) pulled down No. 10 Tamawashi (6-5) to move two wins behind sole leader.
Asanoyama (7-4) looked destined for defeat after quickly being driven to the edge by sekiwake Takanosho (4-7). The ozeki, however, timed his counterattack perfectly as the sekiwake was poised to unleash another ferocious shove and executed a beltless throw that turned defeat into victory.
Demotion-threatened ozeki Shodai (6-5) pushed out No. 5 Onosho (6-5) in a flash to earn a morale-boosting win.
Komusubi Mitakeumi (7-4) succumbed to No. 1 Hokutofuji (4-7), while komusubi Daieisho (4-7) is on the cusp of a losing record after the New Year meet champion was forced out by No. 2 Meisei (5-6).
Terunofuji, a 29-year-old Mongolian, is fighting as an ozeki for the first time since September 2017, with knee injuries forcing him down to the sport’s second-lowest division in March 2019.
He returned to the top-tier makuuchi division last July — when he remarkably won his second career grand tournament — and won his third in March to seal his epic comeback with re-promotion to ozeki.
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