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Kotonowaka and Terunofuji Share the New Year Basho Lead Heading into the Final Day

With an upset victory over Kirishima on Day 14 of the New Year Basho, Kotonowaka kept himself in the running for his first Emperor's Cup.

Kotonowaka pulled off a major upset win over ozeki Kirishima at the New Year Basho on Saturday, January 27 that could lead to the sekiwake winning his first Emperor's Cup and moving up to sumo's second-highest rank.

In the day's final bout at Ryogoku Kokugikan, Kotonowaka fought off a powerful arm thrust to the neck and briefly dodged out of the way of the hard-charging Kirishima, who lost his balance when he didn't make contact with his opponent.

Kotonowaka then quickly got a grip on the back of Kirishima's belt and shoved the stunned Mongolian ozeki out to the delight of the capacity crowd.

With the win, Kotonowaka improved to 12-2 and will face Tobizaru (7-7) on Sunday.

Yokozuna Terunofuji, who also has a 12-2 record, is set to face Kirishima (11-3) in the final match on Day 15.

If Kotonowaka wins the Emperor's Cup, that will almost assure him of promotion to ozeki for the Spring Basho in March.

On Saturday, Kirishima looked good from the initial charge but couldn't finish off his opponent when he had the chance.

New Year Basho
Yokozuna Terunofuji improved to 12-2 after a victory by forfeit on Day 14. Hoshoryu withdrew from the tournament before their scheduled match. (KYODO)

Hoshoryu Pulls Out of New Year Basho with a Knee Injury

Terunofuji recorded his 12th win when his Day 14 opponent ozeki Hoshoryu was forced to pull out with a knee injury.

Hoshoryu himself was in pursuit of his second championship but that came to an end on Friday when he was handed his third defeat of the meet against Mongolian compatriot Kirishima, who won with an ankle-kicking twist-down.

The 24-year-old Hoshoryu had gone 10-3 through Friday. There were gasps of shock at Ryogoku when it was announced just before his scheduled bout as many weren't aware of his untimely withdrawal. 

"His right knee went inward when he received the kick," Hoshoryu's stablemaster Tatsunami was quoted as saying by Kyodo News. "He couldn't land on his foot in the morning."

Tatsunami went on to say: "He said he wanted to take part on the final day, but wrestling while not being able to generate his power is bad for both the opponent and spectators."

Takakeisho in a September 2023 file photo. (KYODO)

Ozeki Takakeisho and former ozeki Takayasu along with former komusubi and current No 3 maegashira Hokutofuji had all previously withdrawn from competition.

Terunofuji versus Kirishima will be an intriguing showdown on the final day. 

The yokozuna, who is bidding for his ninth Emperor's Cup, has looked strong in this tournament. And Kirishima won the last tournament of 2023.

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Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.

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