NAGOYA – Yokozuna Hakuho and ozeki Terunofuji each won on Thursday, retaining a share of the lead with perfect 12-0 records at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.
The wins by ensured one of them would win the tournament. Because they will square off over the weekend, both can't finish with three losses, effectively eliminating their two closest title pursuers. No. 10 maegashira Tamawashi and No. 11 Kotonowaka are each 9-3 with three days left at Dolphins Arena.
In the day's final bout, Hakuho, with a record 44 career grand tournament championships, beat sekiwake Mitakeumi (6-6) for the 12th time in 16 career bouts.
The yokozuna gained a right underarm hold from the opening charge and forced Mitakeumi back to the straw. The sekiwake dug in near the straw to stave off defeat. But when he tried to wriggle free, Hakuho latched on to Mitakeumi's belt with his left and easily ushered him over the straw.
With his 12th win, the 36-year-old yokozuna put to rest talk of an imminent retirement after he missed all or part of the six previous tournaments and had knee surgery in March.
Fighting just ahead of Hakuho in the day's penultimate bout, 29-year-old Terunofuji defeated debutant komusubi Meisei (6-6) to move to the brink of promotion to sumo's highest rank, yokozuna, showing off his ability to improvise after failing to get a belt hold from the jump.
After sparring at arm's length for a moment, Meisei moved in to seize a right underarm hold. But that proved to be his downfall. The ozeki locked up both the komusubi's arms in a vise-like grip and walked him backward to the straw before thrusting him off the raised ring.
The winner of the last two tournaments, Terunofuji can secure promotion with a championship or a comparable record. Such a triumph would complete a stunning comeback from injuries that saw him fall to the fifth-tier jonidan division in March 2019.
Ozeki Shodai (7-5) forced out No. 5 Okinoumi (5-7) to close on a winning record for the tournament.
Sekiwake Takayasu, who missed the first two days of the tournament due to lower back pain, suffered his first career loss in five bouts to No. 6 Kiribayama (8-4) getting forced out in a marathon grappling fest.
Takayasu came to Nagoya with 10 wins from each of his previous two tournaments, but fell to 7-3-2. He will likely need three wins over the final four days, when he will likely match up against Hakuho and Terunofuji, to keep his hopes for possible repromotion to ozeki alive for September.
Debutant komusubi Wakatakakage (3-9) fell to No. 6 Onosho (5-7).
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