Ozeki Terunofuji appears poised to earn promotion to sumo's highest rank of yokozuna after reeling off his 13th straight win on Friday, leaving him tied with yokozuna Hakuho for the lead at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament with two days to go.
Terunofuji entered the 15-day meet at Dolphins Arena with the knowledge that a third straight championship here or a comparable record would earn him promotion.
"It's better to secure the championship, but he's (already) satisfied the requirement in terms of result," said sumo elder Isegahama, the head of the Japan Sumo Association's judging department and Terunofuji's stablemaster.
The 29-year-old Mongolian, an ozeki from July 2015 to September 2017, saw his career nearly ruined by injuries to both knees and illness. He began his comeback from the fifth-tier jonidan division in March 2019.
Terunofuji fought his way back and returned to the elite makuuchi division last July, when he won his second career Emperor's Cup and has been the sport's most dominant wrestler since.
He survived his first real scare in the Nagoya meet on Friday, when he fashioned a win over fellow ozeki Shodai.
Following an evenly matched initial crash, Shodai's left beltless arm throw had Terunofuji off-balance near the edge. But Shodai (7-6) failed to pounce at the decisive moment and allowed Terunofuji to recover his ground.
Terunofuji regained his balance and withstood a weak pull-down move from Shodai, who he then forced to the edge, where one last push sealed the win.
Hakuho, meanwhile, showed off good technique to dispatch sekiwake Takayasu (7-4-2), with the yokozuna showing no signs of decline despite the constant talk of retirement surrounding him due to his having missed all or part of the last six meets.
Initially missing his face slap, Hakuho quickly wrapped both arms around Takayasu's right arm before swiveling the former ozeki down with an arm bar throw in seconds to remain tied with Terunofuji.
Sekiwake Mitakeumi (7-6) had not been at his best here but was dominant against No. 5 Okinoumi (5-8) in a force-out win.
Debutant komusubi Meisei (7-6) beat No. 6 Kiribayama (8-5) despite the maegashira dodging him on the opening charge. The komusubi kept his feet before getting matching underarm belt holds and forcing his opponent over the straw in a heated bout.
Wakatakakage (4-9), another new komusubi, secured a win after withstanding two pull-down attempts from No. 4 Kotoeko (2-11).
No. 10 Tamawashi and No. 11 Kotonowaka both won to improve to 10-3, although both were eliminated from title contention on Thursday.
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