Terunofuji beat fellow ozeki Takakeisho in a playoff to clinch the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday, capping his epic return to the sport’s second-highest rank this month by capturing the fourth Emperor’s Cup of his career.
Terunofuji lost his one-win lead after swiftly getting thrust down by Takakeisho in the day’s final scheduled bout, forcing a championship playoff at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan. But the 29-year-old Mongolian showed his mettle to claim the decider for his first title as an ozeki.
After falling quickly in their first encounter, Terunofuji kept his distance in the playoff, getting the better of the exchanges of shoves to force Takakeisho into a half-hearted pull-down attempt and comfortably slapping him down to the sandy surface.
No. 8 maegashira Endo (11-4), who beat Takakeisho and Terunofuji the previous two days to set up a potential three-way playoff, was eliminated from title contention in a loss to ozeki Shodai (9-6).
Endo came out slightly on top off the initial charge, forcing Shodai to step back toward the edge. But a right beltless throw from Shodai had Endo off balance and a subsequent swift attack from the left by the ozeki left the maegashira with no room to maneuver before he was pushed out.
The latest championship means Terunofuji will enter the July meet with a chance for promotion to the sport’s highest rank of yokozuna.
Terunofuji won his first title in May 2015 and also secured his first promotion to ozeki after the meet, but injuries to both knees and illness plagued him since.
He dropped from ozeki after September 2017 and went spiraling down further — as low as the sport’s second-lowest division of jonidan in March 2019.
Terunofuji bounced back in a fairytale manner, however, stunning the sumo world last July when he won his second career title upon his return to the elite makuuchi division, before winning his third this March that earned his re-promotion to ozeki.
His first loss this month came on the 11th day when he was ruled to have fouled No. 4 Myogiryu, with ringside judges claiming that the ozeki grabbed the hair — a move banned in the ancient sport — while executing a throw against the maegashira.
Takayasu (10-5) had a good chance of adding another win but fell to out-of-form fellow sekiwake Takanosho (5-10), who withstood sustained pressure before slapping down the tiring former ozeki in a lengthy bout.
Komusubi Mitakeumi (10-5) wrapped up the meet by reaching double figures, pushing out giant No. 6 Mongolian Ichinojo (9-6) with little trouble.
Fellow Komusubi Daieisho (6-9) thrust out No. 4 Myogiryu (6-9) to end on a winning note, but the New Year Basho champion will likely face demotion from the three sanyaku ranks below yokozuna.
No. 1 Wakatakakage (9-6) fell to a pull-down by No. 12 Kotoeko (9-6) but was rewarded for his steady performance with his second straight Technique prize, with the first promotion to sanyaku now all but certain.
“It’s pleasing. It makes me think I’m getting stronger and boosts my confidence,” Wakatakakage said of the award. “I’ve been focusing on my initial charge, driving in low and attacking upward. … I’ll look forward to the ranking announcement.”
Responding to government guidance due to a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo, the Japan Sumo Association started the ongoing tournament behind closed doors but was allowed to admit up to 5,000 fans from the fourth day.
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