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Terunofuji Produces Confidence-Boosting Win Over Hokutofuji at New Year Basho

Grand champion Terunofuji looks to have regained his old form with the dominant New Year Basho victory over the rank-and-filer.

In the first indication that he may be in championship form, yokozuna Terunofuji overpowered Hokutofuji on Thursday, January 18 to improve to 4-1 at the New Year Basho.

In the day's final bout at Ryogoku Kokugikan, Terunofuji moved quickly out of the face-off and wrapped his arms around Hokutofuji before calmly shoving the No 3 maegashira out to his second loss against three wins.

Terunofuji is attempting a comeback after completing only one tournament in 2023 while recovering from injuries to his back. He is also dealing with the aftereffects of surgery on both knees.

He lost to Wakamotoharu on Day 2 and won his other bouts but none as convincing as Thursday's win over a tough opponent. 

Terunofuji, bidding for his ninth Emperor's Cup, is among eight wrestlers at 4-1 in the 15-day basho.

New Year Basho
Gonoyama outmuscles Hoshoryu on Day 5. (ⒸSANKEI)

Gonoyama Shocks Hoshoryu

In other major New Year Grand Sumo Tournament bouts, unheralded Gonoyama upset previously undefeated ozeki Hoshoryu to post his first win over the Mongolian wrestler.

No 3 maegashira Gonoyama got both arms around the stunned ozeki immediately after the face-off and waltzed him out in a matter of seconds.

Gonoyama moved to 2-3 while Hoshoryu dropped to 4-1. The result meant that Kotonowaka and Asanoyama stayed tied for the lead at 5-0.

"I just tried to get in tight and move forward," Gonoyama said. 

"I've been working on my footwork before the tournament and it really paid off today."

New Year Basho
Kirishima (left) clashes with Abi in a New Year Basho match. (ⒸSANKEI)

Milestone Victory for Kirishima

Ozeki Kirishima avoided what would have been a painful second loss when he was pushed back to the edge and used spectacular footwork on the straw ridge before shoving out No 2 maegashira Abi.

Kirishima, who is bidding for promotion to grand champion, chalked up win No 200 in the elite division and improved to 4-1. Abi, who almost pulled off a big upset, fell to 0-5.

Sekiwake Kotonowaka maintained a share of the lead at 5-0 when he recovered from a slow face-off, was pushed back to the edge but recovered to spin Ura (1-4) around and shove the komusubi out from behind.

No 7 maegashira Asanoyama took advantage of a hesitant face-off by Hiradoumi (3-2) and quickly waltzed out the No 8 grappler to maintain his share of the lead at 5-0.

Sekiwake Daieisho stayed one win off the pace when he swatted down top maegashira Wakamotoharu to stay in a large group of wrestlers at 4-1. Wakamotoharu fell to 2-3.

Midorifuji, who upset ozeki Kirishima on Day 4, almost made it two upsets in a row with an attempted neck throw of Shodai, but the No 4 maegashira fought it off and shoved his opopenent out.

Shodai improved to 3-2 while second-ranked maegashira Midorifuji dropped to 1-4.

New Year Basho
Atamifuji bulldozes Tobizaru out of the raised ring. (ⒸSANKEI)

Top maegashira Atamifuji finally picked up his first when he fought off a neck throw and several leg kick attempts by Tobizaru before shoving out the fourth-ranked maegashira to improve to 1-4. 

Tobizaru threw everything but the kitchen sink at the much larger Atamifuji. But Tobizaru ran out of options and was shoved out over the straw ridge to fall to 3-2.

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Takakeisho Pulls Out of Tournament

In other news from the dohyo, ozeki Takakeisho was forced to withdraw on Wednesday due to a neck injury that will require about two weeks to heal.

Takakeisho suffered the injury during his victory over top maegashira Atamifuji on Monday. 

The ozeki was forced out to his first defeat on Tuesday by top maegashira Wakamotoharu and lost by default the following day to komusubi Ura to exit the tournament with a 2-2 record.

His withdrawal means that he will be a relegation-threatened ozeki for the eighth time at the Spring Basho in Osaka in March.


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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