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Terunofuji Makes Triumphant Return on Opening Day of New Year Basho

The veteran yokozuna overpowered komusubi Ura in dominant fashion on Day 1 of the New Year Basho, appearing in his first match since July 2023.

Grand champion Terunofuji made a winning return after a long absence to defeat Ura on Sunday, January 14, the opening day of the New Year Basho.

Competing for the first time in three tournaments, Mongolian Terunofuji quickly got an arm lock on Ura before spinning around the newly promoted komusubi and shoving him out to the delight of a capacity crowd at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan. 

Ura has been known for unorthodox techniques but Terunofuji never gave his opponent a chance at any trickery and was in control throughout the day's final bout.

It was a huge relief for Terunofuji, who won the May tournament last year for his eighth Emperor's Cup but was otherwise AWOL in 2023. 

He made a brief appearance in the July tournament before pulling out after three days due to injury.

The 32-year-old Terunofuji has said he wants to win 10 elite division championships and is hoping to achieve it sooner, rather than later given the 32-year-old's history of injuries to his knees and back.

New Year Basho
Hoshoryu (rear) closes in on a victory over Atamifuji on Day 1. (KYODO)

Winning Start for Hoshoryu at the New Year Basho

In other major bouts on Day 1 of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, Mongolian ozeki Hoshoryu got a double inside grip, attempted an arm throw and then shoved out top maegashira Atamifuji to open with a win.

Atamifuji contended for the title in the last two tournaments of 2023 and expects to be right in the mix in the 15-day New Year Basho despite the opening-day loss.

New Year Basho
Kirishima (right) competes against Wakamotoharu in a New Year Basho match. (KYODO).

Ozeki Kirishima used a well-timed hand pull-down shortly after the face-off to kick off his New Year campaign with a solid win over top maegashira Wakamotoharu, who was sent toppling off the raised ring.

Kirishima, who won the last tournament of 2023 in November, is hoping to earn promotion to grand champion in 2024 so he will be eager for a strong result in the year's first basho.

New Year Basho
Takakeisho overpowers Midorifuji at Ryogoku Kokugikan. (KYODO)

Takakeisho, Daieisho Triumph on Opening Day

Midorifuji dodged to his side at the face-off but Takakeisho kept his poise and remained calm before shoving out the diminutive No 2 maegashira. As a result, Takakeisho opened with a win and made it a clean slate for the ozeki wrestlers on Day 1.

Sekiwake Daieisho used a thrust-down technique to defeat No 3 maegashira Gonoyama.

Daieisho comes into the tournament with potential to get promoted to ozeki. But he would need close to 14 wins to achieve that.

Another grappler bidding for promotion to ozeki is sekiwake Kotonowaka, who used a barrage of arm thrusts to the upper body to send No 2 maegashira Abi backpedaling out of the ring.

In a battle of heavyweights, komusubi Takayasu overpowered Hokutofuji with a frontal push-out to oust the third-ranked maegashira in a matter of seconds.

Former ozeki Asanoyama took advantage of a strong face-off before pushing out fellow No 7 maegashira Ichiyamamoto to kick off his New Year campaign with a win. 

It's just a shoe!

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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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