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Monday, May 24, 1999

Musashimaru wins
summer sumo, shoo-in
for yokozuna

Committee recommends yokozuna
Sumo mom proud of her son

TOKYO, May 23 (Kyodo) -- Ozeki Musashimaru wrapped up back-to-back championships Sunday, flattening yokozuna Akebono in the final bout of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament to virtually lock up promotion to the ancient sport’s premier rank.

Despite a history of choking in crunch situations, Musashimaru got the job done in front of a boisterous crowd at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan as he overpowered a tiring Akebono to finish on 13-2 after the two giant Hawaiians had gone belly-to-belly in a test of strength.

Musashimaru quickly secured a two-handed inside grip on Akebono’s belt, but his first attempt to bulldoze his opponent out was repelled at the edge by a determined yokozuna, who has faced questions about retirement throughout the 15-day tourney.

However, the effort sapped Akebono of any remaining energy and Musashimaru bulled forward again, clinically making sure the second time with a final shove to the chest which left his opponent in a crumpled heap and nursing an 11-4 record.


AP/Kyodo
Musashimaru pushes out his Hawaii counterpart
Akebono during the last day match of the 15-day
Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo yesterday.



Afterward, Musashimaru refused to speculate when asked about a possible promotion, which will be considered by the Yokozuna Deliberation Council on Monday with a recommendation likely going to the Japan Sumo Association’s board of directors Wednesday.

”I wasn’t really thinking about becoming yokozuna. I’m looking forward to next week, but I’ll talk to you about what kind of yokozuna I want to be if and when it happens,” he said.

Meanwhile, sekiwake Kaio finished runner-up on 12-3 as he lifted out ozeki Takanonami, 9-6, after walking off with his third Fighting Spirit Prize for his efforts during the tournament.

Dejima is another wrestler who will be pressing claims for ozeki promotion next time round as he manhandled fellow sekiwake Akinoshima, 6-9, to finish as one of a trio on 11-4, along with Akebono and No. 10 maegashira Wakanosato, who picked up his first Technique Prize.

Komusubi Tochiazuma ended Wakanosato’s hopes of posting a 12-3 record -- and remaining in the picture for a possible championship playoff if Musashimaru lost -- by slapping him down to post his 10th win.

The sumo association presented Tosanoumi with his fourth Outstanding Performance Award, but the top-ranked maegashira also failed to put the icing on the cake as he was nudged out by third-ranked Kotonishiki, 9-6, and finished at 8-7.

Meanwhile, No. 3 maegashira Chiyotenzan became the first wrestler to win one of the special prizes in his first three tournaments in sumo’s elite makuuchi division.

The Kokonoe stable grappler added a punctuation point by bundling out eighth-ranked maegashira Toki to leave both men at 9-6.

However, it was a mixed day for Mongolians Kyokushuzan and Kyokutenho, whose final-day efforts summed up their respective tournaments.

No. 4 maegashira Kyokushuzan was sent to his 10th loss by No. 5 maegashira Tamakasuga, 7-8, and faces a hefty demotion at the Nagoya tourney in July, but 14th-ranked Kyokutenho will move in the opposite direction after boosting his record to 9-6 by squashing 10th-ranked Kaiho, who finished on 8-7.

In lower divisions, Irumagawa stable wrestler Otsukasa wrapped up the juryo title with an 11-4 record, while the makushita, jonidan and jonokuchi junior division crowns all went to non-Japanese.

Tomozuna stable duo Kaishinzan -- a native of Missouri -- and South Korean Kaihakuzan finished top of their respective classes with perfect 7-0 records in the makushita and jonokuchi divisions, and Mongolian Asashoryu took the jonidan title.

Wrestlers in sumo’s four junior divisions compete in only seven bouts over the 15-day tourney.


Prime Minister congratulates
Musashimaru on victory

TOKYO, May 23 (Kyodo) -- Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi on Sunday congratulated ozeki Musashimaru on winning the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament, a victory which virtually assured the Hawaiian-born grappler of promotion to sumo’s highest rank of yokozuna.

”I don’t think he heard me, but I asked him to act as a liaison for friendly Japan-U.S. relations,” said Obuchi, who handed the Musashimaru the championship trophy, his second straight and fifth ever, at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo arena.

In Sunday’s final bout, Musashimaru outlasted Akebono, also originally from Hawaii, shoving the grand champion down onto his back to finish a heated battle and claim the Emperor’s Cup with a 13-2 record.

”It’s great that there were many enthusiastic fans. This time around the key match turned out to be all-Hawaiian, but I think sumo will become even more popular if the four yokozuna, including Waka and Taka, all take part,” Obuchi said.

The premier was referring to brothers Wakanohana and Takanohana, who missed part or all of the past two grand sumo tournaments due to injuries.

The Sumo Deliberation Council, an advisory body to the head of the Japan Sumo Association, is expected to come out Wednesday with a recommendation on Musashimaru’s promotion to yokozuna.


Committee recommends
Musashimaru as yokozuna

TOKYO, May 24 (AP) -- Hawaii-born sumo wrestler has been recommended for promotion to yokozuna, the top rank in the traditional Japanese sport, a special committee of sumo experts said Monday.

The final decision would be up to sumo’s board of directors who are meeting on Wednesday.

The committee, an advisory body to the Japan Sumo Association, made the unanimously decision one day after Musashimaru pushed out yokozuna Akebono to win the 15-day Summer Grand Sumo Tournament with a 13-2 record.

That was the fifth tournament title for the 6 foot-3, 488 pound Musashimaru.

“There was some criticism of how he starts the matches, but all eight attending members expressed their approval to the promotion,” committee chairman Kazuo Ichiriki told a news conference.

Musashimaru, or Fiamalu Penitani, who already holds the second highest rank of ozeki, or champion, also won the previous tournament in a 13-2 record. Winning two consecutive tournaments as ozeki is one of the key requirements for promotion to yokozuna.

Upon final approval, Musashimaru, 28, officially will become the 67th yokozuna, or grand champion -- only the second foreign-born yokozuna following Hawaii-born Akebono, or Chad Rowan, who reached that rank in January 1993.

“I’m happy to hear the news. I’d never dreamed of becoming yokozuna,” Musashimaru said.

Penitani, who came to Japan in 1989 to become a sumo wrestler, won promotion to ozeki in 1994 and became a Japanese citizen in 1996.

Musashimaru will join Akebono, Wakanohana and his younger brother Takanohana as yokozuna in the July 4-18 tournament in Nagoya, central Japan.



Results in Scoreboard


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