Sat, Jan 17, 2009 - Page 18 News List

Man arrested over Asashoryu threat

AFP AND AP , TOKYO

Grand champion Asashoryu, left, throws No. 3 maegashira Takekaze out of the ring at Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo on Thursday.

PHOTO: AP/KYODO NEWS

Japanese police said on Thursday they arrested an unemployed man for making a death threat against sumo grand champion Asashoryu, reportedly to intimidate the controversial star into losing.

Chiharu Takahashi, 29, from the northern island of Hokkaido, was arrested on Wednesday for posting the threat on an online bulletin board from his home computer, a police spokesman in Tokyo said.

Takahashi allegedly said he would storm into Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan arena, the venue for the ongoing New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, and kill Asashoryu, the spokesman said.

Takahashi’s motive was not officially disclosed but reports said he hoped to intimidate the Mongolian, who is the fifth-ranked wrestler in sumo but has struggled to win over Japanese fans.

“I didn’t like Asashoryu’s behavior as a yokozuna,” or grand champion, the suspect told police, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun’s online edition.

“I hoped he would get freaked out by the message and would lose bouts,” he reportedly said.

Takahashi turned himself in to police in Hokkaido, the Yomiuri said.

Asashoryu has been a controversial figure for his abrasive remarks and manners, which Japanese traditionalists say do not fit the ideal of a taciturn grand champion.

Asashoryu showed no sign of letting up at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo yesterday, overpowering Toyonoshima to stay tied for the lead.

Asashoryu came bursting out of the blocks in the day’s final bout and drove komusubi Toyonoshima out to improve to 6-0 while maintaining a share of the lead with Hakuho, Baruto and lower-ranked wrestler Tochiozan.

In other major bouts, Mongolian grand champion Hakuho barely broke sweat hauling down No. 3 maegashira Takekaze (2-4) in a matter of seconds to keep pace at 6-0.

Estonian Baruto continued his impressive run in the 15-day meet when he used an arm throw to send Kotomitsuki over the straw ridge. Sekiwake Baruto improved to a perfect 6-0, while ozeki Kotomitsuki dropped to 1-5.

Newly-promoted ozeki Harumafuji continued to struggle and was hoisted out by Goeido to fall to 1-5. Goeido, a No. 3 maegashira, improved to 5-1.

Komusubi Kisenosato shoved out ozeki Kaio to improve to 3-3.

Kaio, who needs a winning record to maintain his ozeki status, dropped to 4-2.

Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu hauled down No. 2 maegashira Miyabiyama to pick up his fifth win against a lone loss.

Miyabiyama dropped to 1-5.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai forced out struggling top maegashira Kyokutenho to stay one win off the pace at 5-1. Mongolian Kyokutenho was handed his fifth loss.

In an earlier bout, 12th-ranked maegashira Tochiozan stayed tied for the lead when he shoved out No. 10 Tokitenku, who dropped to 2-4.

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