Mon, Jan 26, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Asashoryu silences critics by winning 23rd Emperor’s Cup

AP , TOKYO

Grand champion Asashoryu of Mongolia defeated compatriot Hakuho in an extra title-deciding bout yesterday to win his 23rd Emperor’s Cup at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

Overcoming injuries, calls for his retirement and a death threat on the first day of the 15-day meet, Asashoryu won the title after being forced to an extra bout when he and Hakuho both finished the tournament with 14-1 records.

They finished tied after Hakuho beat Asashoryu in the final scheduled bout of the tournament.

That forced a one-off decider between the two Mongolians, when Asashoryu got hold of Hakuho’s belt and lifted his fellow grand champion out of the ring.

Asashoryu missed all or part of the last three tournaments because of injuries, leading to calls for his retirement.

But the 28-year-old quickly silenced his critics, getting off to a strong start in the New Year tourney, going undefeated until that penultimate bout against Hakuho.

Asashoryu received a death threat on the opening day of the tournament.

Tokyo police later arrested a 29-year-old man who posted “Coming to Ryogoku to kill Asashoryu,” on a popular Japanese Internet forum.

“I’m back,” a tearful Asashoryu said after receiving the Emperor’s Cup from Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso. “I knew there was no tomorrow in the final and did everything I could to win.”

Hakuho, who won the previous three tournaments in Asashoryu’s absence, had been gunning for his ninth Emperor’s Cup.

In other major bouts, Estonian sekiwake Baruto finished with a win when he grabbed hold of Harumafuji’s leg and lifted the ozeki out to 9-7. Mongolian Harumafuji, who was making his debut at sumo’s second-highest rank, finished with an 8-7 record.

Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu took a grip on Kaio’s belt and lifted the ozeki out to finish at 10-5. Kaio, who needed a winning record to keep his ozeki status, did so by finishing 8-7.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai used a rapid-fire barrage of arm thrusts to overpower Goeido and finish with a winning record of 8-7. Goeido, a No. 3 maegashira, posted a solid 10-5 record.

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