Sumo: Asashoryu wins New Year Grand Tournament

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Sumo fighter Asashōryū Akinori returned to fighting after being on the injured list for nearly nine months, to win the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament held at Ryōgoku Kokugikan stadium in Tokyo, Japan. In a final bout, the 153kg Asashōryū beat Hakuhō Shō who had earlier defeated him in the regulation rounds. It was a well-matched playoff with both men entering the final round with a 14-1 record.

Asashōryū Akinori in August of 2008.
Image: Petra Langeder.

After the win Asashōryū exclaimed "I'm Back". Asashōryū had missed almost nine months of competition due to an elbow injury.

Asashōryū whose real name is Dolgorsuren Dagvadorj and hailing from Ulan Bator, Mongolia, started the tournament fourteen days earlier with an opening-day win over komusubi Kisenosato. His tournament win creates a new record with yokozuna becoming only the fourth man to win 23 Emperors Cups. He now is only one win behind Kitanoumi (24), but a long way from both Chiyonofuji (31) and Taiho (32).

Speaking about the earlier round loss to Hakuhō, Asashōryū said "the loss helped motivate me. I knew everything was on the line". He put the earlier loss down to a hesitant Tachi-ai - the initial charge at each other. Expectations of a fourth consecutive win were high after beating Asashōryū in the earlier bout.

Champion Asashōryū in action during the May 2008 Grand Tournament
Image: Bjorn Engelhardt.

Prior to the final bout Asashōryū practiced his tachai and modified his belt grip to ensure he didn't fall into the same problems he faced in the earlier bout with Hakuhō. The change of strategy worked in the final round, with Asashōryū taking an early advantage with a strong left grip on Hakuho's belt. This neutralized the left hand on Hakuhō, which has been dominant throughout the tournament. Soon after Asashōryū secured a right-hand grip on Hakuhō's front belt and pushed him over the bales, with seemingly little effort to the cheer of the packed stadium. The return of Asashōryū has been a huge boost to Sumo with the association reveling in sellout crowds.

Asashōryū's stablemaster, Takasago was pleased that Asashōryū returned to fighting and also pleased with the win in the tournament, but now questions whether he has the passion to continue. He said "Now's he won, he needs to take a good look at himself and make sure he has the desire to do it all again."


Sources

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