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Sumo

Abi stuns Terunofuji on Penultimate Day of New Year Tournament

Mitakeumi moves back into sole possession of the lead to set up showdown with the grand champion.

Abi shoves Terunofuji out of the raised ring at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on January 22 at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Terunofuji’s road to a third straight Emperor’s Cup just got a little tougher.

Rank-and-filer Abi upset grand champion Terunofuji on Saturday, January 22 to give sekiwake Mitakeumi sole possession of the lead with one day remaining in the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

In the day’s final bout at Ryogoku Kokugikan, No. 6 maegashira Abi knocked Terunofuji off balance with several powerful thrusts to the neck.

Once Terunofuji lost his footing, Abi pounced, shoving the stunned yokozuna out over the edge to give both wrestlers a record of 11-3.

“All I remember is hitting him at the initial charge,” Abi said. “I just approached it as a challenger and went on the attack from the outset. I’m as surprised as anyone.”

Sekiwake Mitakeumi bulldozed Takarafuji out in an earlier bout to improve to 12-2.

Mitakeumi, 9-4 against Takarafuji in previous bouts, came bursting out of the face-off, spun the No. 7 maegashira around and shoved him out in a matter of seconds. Takarafuji, who put up little resistance, fell to 9-5.

Terunofuji and Mitakeumi are set to meet on Sunday. Mitakeumi beat Abi on Day 13.

If Mitakeumi wins, he will secure his third career title. Terunofuji would have to defeat Mitakeumi in regulation and then go to a playoff to win his third straight Emperor’s Cup since being promoted to sumo’s highest rank.

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In other major bouts, rising star Kotonowaka deployed a textbook arm throw at the edge to defeat sekiwake Takanosho (6-8) and improve to 11-3. 

In the day’s penultimate bout, hard-luck ozeki Shodai appeared to have defeated Mongolian Hoshoryu with an arm throw. But the ringside judges ruled the bout a draw and called for a rematch.

No. 6 maegashira Hoshoryu, with his forehead bloodied from being thrown down by Shodai, prevailed in the second bout when the ozeki stepped out over the edge.

Hoshoryu improved to 10-4 while Shodai dropped to an unflattering 5-9.

Elsewhere, veteran Tamawashi, a No. 3 maegashira, wrapped up a winning record of 8-6 with an impressive win over second-ranked maegashira Ura, who fell to 7-7.

The 37-year-old Tamawashi pushed Ura back to the edge where he stepped out, unbeknownst to Tamawashi, who then used an arm throw to send Ura somersaulting off the raised ring.

The arm throw didn’t count as Tamawashi had already won but it made for entertaining sumo and gave the fans in attendance a thrill.

No. 5 maegashira Onosho continued his impressive New Year campaign when he used a powerful series of arm thrusts to send komusubi Meisei out for his 10th win against only four losses. Meisei, who upset Terunofuji on Day 12, fell to 5-9.

Wakamotoharu, who is making his debut in the elite makuuchi division, wrapped up a winning record when he got a double-handed grip on the belt of Tobizaru and forced the No. 8 maegashira out over the edge.

No. 15 maegashira Wakamotoharu, the brother of top maegashira Wakatakakage, improved to 8-6 while Tobizaru fell to 6-8.

“I’m simply happy,” Wakamotoharu said. “I just tried to stay focused on the basics and will concentrate on finishing strong in tomorrow’s bout.”

It was a good day all around for the family as Wakatakakage also secured a winning record and improved to 8-6 when he got both arms around Chiyomaru and bullied the No. 13 maegashira out to his seventh loss against seven wins.

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Three Stars

First Star: Abi. Abi lost to Terunofuji on the second last day of the November tournament but gained a huge measure of seventh this time by throwing a monkey wrench into Terunofuji’s championship plans.

Second Star: Mitakeumi. The sekiwake needed to win and he did. He now holds his fate in his own hands and can wrap up the title on Sunday with a win.

Third Star. Hoshoryu. Battered and bloodied, Hoshoryu came through with an upset over ozeki Shodai and walked off with his 10th win.

Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for more than 25 years. You can find his articles here, on JAPAN Forward.

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