Mon, Aug 21, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Asashoryu Akinori crowned Taiwan's sumo champion

SEE YOU NEXT TIME Akinori, who attributed his victory in part to plenty of bowlfuls of shark-fin soup, picked up a cool NT$1 million, a Honda CR-V car and plane tickets

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

Asashoryu Akinori, winner of the grand final, shows his appreciation for the support of fans at the Taipei Arena yesterday.

PHOTO: JULES QUARTLY, TAIPEI TIMES

An ebullient Asashoryu Akinori was crowned Taiwan's sumo champion at the Taipei Arena yesterday after two days of fighting.

The world's top-ranked sumo wrestler surprisingly lost to the dashing Bulgarian Katooshu Katsunori in the quarter-finals, but was all smiles after getting a second chance and beating tournament winner Tochiazuma Daisuke in the grand final.

Once again the Taipei Arena was packed with celebrities and politicians such as former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) for the basho, which featured 42 of Japan's best wrestlers.

The 184cm, 148kg Akinori was a popular winner and the world's only yokozuna, or champion, picked up a check for NT$1 million, plus a Honda CR-V car and plane tickets.

Afterwards he said the tickets would be handy as he hoped to bring his wife and two kids over when he had time for a holiday.

"Naturally I was tired after fighting yesterday, but I felt it was careless to lose [against Katsunori], which is why it was important for me to win the grand final," Akinori said.

Compared with the previous tournament, yesterday's basho was louder and more exciting as the crowd got behind Akinori and Chiyotaikai Ryuji (千代大海), whose grandfather was from Taiwan.

Roared on by fans, Ryuji made it to the final but was slapped out of the ring by an aggressive Daisuke, who said a massage earlier in the day had been perfect preparation for the championship.

The grand final was evenly matched, as Akinori and Daisuke traded slaps and pushed each other around the ring. Akinori, however, took the advantage with a feint and pulled over his unbalanced rival.

"The tournament sponsors gave me lots of helpings of shark-fin soup," Akinori said, "and I think that helped."

Daisuke said, "It was a pity to lose against Akinori, but I tried my best and I am quite satisfied with my overall performance."

Akinori had earlier in the day practiced a speech in Chinese and at the conclusion of the tournament told fight fans, "See you next time for sumo."

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