OSAKA, Japan [AP] — Mongolian Hakuho defeated compatriot Asashoryu in a playoff today to win the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.
Hakuho sidestepped a charging Asashoryu at the faceoff and then swatted the grand champion down to win his second Emperor’s Cup.
Asashoryu lost his first two bouts of the 15-day tourney at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium and then reeled off 13 straight wins to force the playoff with his Mongolian counterpart.
Sumo’s lone grand champion was bidding for his 21st title and entered the tournament on the heels of accusations that he was involved in fixing matches.
The Japan Sumo Association cleared Asashoryu of any wrongdoing but it was clear he was not himself during the first two days of the tournament.
Hakuho showed a lot of poise throughout the tournament but elected to dodge to his side in the playoff, a move that is frowned upon by sumo purists.
Asashoryu forced a playoff when he swatted down ozeki Chiyotaikai in the final bout of regulation to improve to 13-2.
Chiyotaikai attempted to use his trademark arm thrusts but was no match for Asashoryu.
Hakuho ensured himself of at least a place in the playoffs when he hauled down Bulgarian Kotooshu to move to 13-2.
Ozeki Kotooshu finished at 8-7, good enough to maintain his ozeki rank for the next tournament.
Ozeki Kaio wrapped up a winning record on the final day when he forced out Mongolian Ama to improve to 8-7. Komusubi Ama also finished at 8-7.
Hakuho has now won two tournaments and compiled a record of 179 wins and 70 losses in the highest division. He’s very likely to be the next ozeki (champion) promoted to yokozuna (grand champion).