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It's all in Kakuryu's hands now, as long as he avoids defeat tomorrow, he has won the yusho. But ozeki promotion - I don't know if they'll promote a sixth.
Wow..what a strange turn of events..even if he gets the win tomorrow I doubt he will be promoted.
A bit of an anti-climax - Kakuryu loses his bout to Goeido and then loses the play-off bout to Hakuho. I definitely don't think he'll be promoted now. If Baruto had won the yusho (and therefore probable promotion to yokozuna) and Kakuryu had finished second, they might have done.
Haru Day 15: Yokozuna Hakuho wins title in playoff
Sunday, 25 March 2012 Hakuho pulled off an improbable comeback in Houdini-esque fashion, rallying from behind and beating yokozuna destroyer Kakuryu in a playoff to win the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.
The yokozuna got his chance for a rematch against countryman Kakuryu after the sekiwake was sent to a second defeat at the hands of Goeido, forcing a playoff when Hakuho disposed of ozeki Baruto in the final bout of regulation to leave both men with 13-2 marks.
Hakuho, who had lost to Kakuryu earlier in the tournament, for the second time in as many meets, tasted the sweetest revenge in the end to win his 22nd career title, tying him with former yokozuna Takanohana for fifth on the all-time list.
"To be honest, I didn't think it would come this far," said Hakuho, who rebounded from one win behind. "I now realize how difficult it is to wins 22 titles, which gives me a newfound respect for yokozuna Takanohana. I feel honored that I could match him."
The lone Mongolian yokozuna latched his left hand onto Kakuryu's mawashi and tried to dump his opponent over the ridge in a frontal assault, only for Kakuryu to retaliate as he teetered on the ropes in a counterattack at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium.
Hakuho moved around his opponent while executing a deft inner leg sweep to topple Kakuryu with an overarm throw to thunderous applause from a packed house in Osaka.
"This is my first championship like this. It was exhausting. When you're chasing in the title race, there's nothing you can do but hope, so I just focused solely on my bouts," Hakuho continued.
It was the first time that a wrestler came from behind to win a tournament on the final day since former yokozuna Asashoryu achieved the feat at the 2004 Summer Basho, except for cases in which wrestlers involved in playoffs met each other in regulation bouts.
Kakuryu, who secured a move up to ozeki with his 13th win the previous day, also won the Outstanding Performance and Technique prizes but fell short of winning his first career title.
The tension was palpable before Hakuho and Baruto locked horns in the final bout of regulation, with Estonian giant Baruto making one false start before the bout got under way.
Baruto, who had been making a bid for promotion to sumo's ultimate rank before stumbling to four defeats over the first two weeks, got a superior grip on the mawashi and moved the yokozuna toward the edge, but Hakuho hung on for dear life before ushering his opponent over the straw bales.
Baruto, who won the New Year meet with a 14-1 mark in January, ended the Spring Basho with a 10-5 record.
Osaka native Goeido raised the roof in front of his hometown fans, getting a razor-sharp jump at the face-off before wrapping both hands around Kakuryu and taking him out in one swoop.
For his mega-efforts, Goeido picked up his 12th win and third career Technique Prize, and forced Kakuryu into the winner-takes-all championship.
Kotoshogiku emerged the victor in a battle of Japanese ozeki when he bulldozed Kisenosato in a lopsided affair, as both men finished their campaigns with pedestrian 9-6 records.
Mongolian Harumafuji cart-wheeled Bulgarian Kotooshu out of the ring with a well-timed overarm throw, leaving him on 11-4, while his rival just passed the grade with an 8-7 mark.
Toyonoshima, who beat ozeki pair Kotoshogiku and Kotooshu earlier in the meet, finished with an 11-4 mark and won his fourth Technique Prize after forcing out Kitataiki, who ended on 9-6.
Sumo returns to Osaka with a bang
By MARK BUCKTON
Special to The Japan Times Online
For the first time since March of 2010, the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium played host to a sumo tournament.
Things started off slow and somber on the opening day as the tournament, as the entire nation paused to remember the victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that changed Japan forever.
Later in the day, in an indication of things to come, Mongolian sekiwake Kakuryu downed his Day 1 opponent Kyokutenho with a well-worked yorikiri win, Estonian ozeki Baruto took on the heavier Gagamaru, employing a powerful uwatenage overarm throw move to finish him off, and Hakuho quietly stole beneath the radar with an all-too-easy thrust down to send komusubi Tochiozan to his first loss of the basho.
Combined, the aforementioned trio wrote most of the headlines as the basho wore on, with the spunky Fujishima Beya Mongolian Shotenro fighting at the maegashira 16 rank adding a dash of spice until midway through week two when his own 9-1 record come Day 11 came off the rails with five consecutive defeats against higher ranked foes in the last five days.
By Day 15 Kakuryu on 13-1 only needed to beat the maegashira 6 Goeido — a rikishi against whom he had enjoyed 9 wins and suffered just 3 defeats to date — to take the title. At this juncture Hakyho stood at 12-2. Kakuryu lost.
A few minutes later yokozuna grand champion Hakuho went on to down Baruto — in large part before the match had actually begun, courtesy his presence as a yokozuna and the mental games at the tachiai. This went on to set up a final day play-off against his fellow Mongolian Kakuryu.
Both men were thus at 13-2 after 15 bouts apiece. The final bout of the first tournament in Osaka since 2010 would therefore see one Mongolian go against another — both the same age, both from Ulan Bator. The winner would walk away a yusho winner — the man defeated, an also-ran
One of the best battles sumo has seen in the past two years, since Hakuho, downed by former yokozuna Asashoryu in a play-off at the September 2009 tourney, saw the same man claim a victory over his sekiwake foe. But only just — and courtesy an uwatenage overarm throw that left them both on the clay that will be replayed many times in the years ahead.
As a result of his magnificent 13-2 record this basho, his more-than-satisfactory (for promotion to ozeki rank) 33-12 win/loss record over the past three basho, and his overall 64-26 over the past calendar year, Kakuryu was, on Wednesday morning, paid a visit by representatives of the sumo association.
The men charged with informing him of his promotion included Shikoroyama Oyakata, the brother of Kakuryu's own stablemaster and a former sekiwake himself.
With the promotion, Kakuryu, who is expected to keep his shikona (fighting name) but may change it should he ever win back-to back yusho and be promoted to yokozuna, will be the sport's ninth ozeki to date born overseas, the fourth Mongolian to reach the rank.
This will mean that come the 2012 Natsu Basho in Tokyo this May there will be a record six ozeki at the second rank, a feat never before seen in the sport's 255 years of recorded history.
Thankfully all are reasonably young. All are capable of winning a tournament — perhaps not back to back to secure promotion to the highest rank, but at least one. Harumafuji, Baruto and Kotooshu have already proven this point. Kakuryu has come close as have Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku in recent times.
In this regard all apparently bodes well for sumo. The competition is healthy,
Hakuho is no longer the shoe-in he so long has been, and the ozeki line-up look capable of challenging the top dog for the basho on a regular basis.
That is, until we get to the fact that four of the six ozeki are non-Japanese. But that is a story for another day. And one to be covered here in Sumo Scribblings between the basho a couple of weeks from now
Hats off to Kakuryu for a wonderful ascent to sumo's second rank, but let's not forget Hak now has his 22nd top flight title and is within site of Asashoryu's 25 championship record, the 31 of Chiyonofuji, and the ultimate goal — the 32 of Taiho.