Mon, May 24, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Asashoryu secures Emperor's Cup after breathtaking match

AP , TOKYO

Grand champion Asashoryu overpowered Hokutoriki in a playoff Sunday to win his second bout of the day and capture his third straight Emperor's Cup on the final day of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament.

Asashoryu defeated Chiyotaikai in the final bout at Ryogoku Kokugikan to set up the dramatic playoff after makuuchi debutante Hakuho upset Hokutoriki in an earlier bout as both wrestlers finished at 13-2.

In the playoff, Asashoryu came charging out of the blocks, got both hands on the back of Hokutoriki's belt and calmly lifted the top maegashira out to claim the title, denying Hokutoriki his first Emperor's Cup.

"When I lost to him earlier in the tournament, I was determined to get another chance," Asashoryu said. "There is responsibility that goes with being a yokozuna and I wanted to prove that I could live up to it."

It was Asashoryu's seventh title overall and the first where he had to come from behind on the final day and win in a playoff.

Asashoryu, who won the previous two tournaments with perfect 15-0 records, looked strong this time around. His only losses were to Hokutoriki and fellow Mongolian Kyokutenho.

In an earlier bout, Hokutoriki missed out on a golden opportunity to win the tournament outright when he lost to Mongolian Hakuho after being thrown off his timing at the face off.

After several false starts, 19-year-old Hakuho swatted Hokutoriki down after sidestepping his opponent, who lost his footing and was never able to recover. Hokutoriki's only previous loss of the tournament was to sekiwake Wakanosato.

Hakuho and Hokutoriki were both awarded the tournament's Fighting Spirit Prize. Hokutoriki also took home the Outstanding Performance Prize for his strong performance in the tournament.

"I'm happy with the way I performed," said Hokutoriki. "It was tough to lose on the final day like that but this was a good tournament for me."

Hakuho, a No. 16 maegashira, improved to 12-3 while Hokutoriki was handed his second loss and was forced to sit back and hope that ozeki Chiyotaikai could upset Asashoryu. It didn't happen.

Asashoryu, gunning for his third straight title, set up the dramatic playoff when he got both arms around Chiyotaikai right after the face off and lifted his opponent out. Chiyotaikai finished with a lackluster 9-6 record.

In other major bouts, Kaio shoved out fellow ozeki Musoyama to finish with a respectable 10-5 record. Musoyama finished at 6-9.

Earlier, No. 5 maegashira Tamanoshima improved to 12-3 when he shoved out No. 12 maegashira Kaiho, who fell to 9-6. Tamanoshima, who won the tournament's Technique Prize, will be moving up the ranking.

Komusubi Kotomitsuki overpowered Georgian-born Kokkai to close out the tournament with a 9-6 record. Kokkai, a No. 7 maegashira, finished with an impressive 10-5 and will also be moving up the ranks next time out.

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