H A W A I I _ S U M O T O R I

Kyodo News Service

Monday, January 25, 1999

Chiyotaikai wins
New Year tourney

Musashimaru marks 50th straight
tournament with winning record

TOKYO -- Sekiwake Chiyotaikai defeated yokozuna Wakanohana twice Sunday, while dodging a bullet in a third bout ruled no decision, to come from behind and claim the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament championship.

Chiyotaikai's first triumph in the elite makuuchi division virtually assures the 22-year-old Kokonoe stable grappler a promotion to ozeki. He will become the first wrestler in five years to be promoted to sumo's second highest rank.

''This is a dream come true,'' the sekiwake said during the post-tourney awards ceremony, while boyishly adding for his mother in Oita Prefecture, ''I did it.''

The odds, however, did not favor the protege of legendary yokozuna Chiyonofuji, now sumo elder Kokonoe, entering the final day of bouts at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Chiyotaikai first needed to beat Wakanohana in their regular match-up to even their records at 13-2 apiece to force a championship playoff, while Waka, seeking his first Emperor's Cup since being made grand champion last summer, needed to win only one.

In the penultimate bout of regulation, Wakanohana and Chiyotaikai came out with both guns blazing as they exchanged slaps and thrusts at center ring.

The would-be ozeki, however, caught Wakanohana with his right arm under the yokozuna's left armpit and whipped him over and down to the ring's surface to force a wrestle-off for the championship.

In the playoff, Chiyotaikai bulled his way straight forward but Wakanohana sidestepped to the left at the edge of the ring and pulled the sekiwake by as he went airborne off the dohyo before a full house that included U.S. shuttle astronauts Chiaki Mukai and John Glenn.

Chiyotaikai appeared to touch out of bounds first as he somersaulted off the raised ring, but the ringside judges ruled that both landed at the same time and ordered a rematch.

Given new life, Chiyotaikai overpowered the yokozuna from belt control and fell on top of Wakanohana, who attempted a desperation headlock at the edge of the ring.

''When I came to the arena today, the attendants reminded me that the pressure was not on me. So I was able to relax and win,'' said Chiyotaikai, who was also named a recipient of the Outstanding Performance Award and Fighting Spirit Prize.

In other bouts, ozeki Musashimaru spun away from the forward march of Takanohana and threw the yokozuna down for his eighth win, giving the burly Hawaiian-born grappler his 50th straight tournament with a winning record.

Musashimaru's record of 50 equals the mark held by Kitanoumi, even though the former yokozuna achieved his streak entirely in the makuuchi ranks while the ozeki had six tournaments with winning records prior to entering the top division.

Meanwhile, an out-of-form Takanohana fell to his seventh loss.

Earlier, sekiwake Kotonowaka pulled ozeki Takanonami under as both wrestlers attempted to make throws and landed on top for his eighth win, while placing a big exclamation point at the end of the ozeki's woeful 6-9 tourney.

Kyushu tourney winner Kotonishiki dragged down Tokitsuumi for an apparent easy win, but ringside officials engaged in an extended debate over whether or not the komusubi had pulled on the topknot of the No. 5 maegashira.

Video replays showed that Kotonishiki had his fingers tangled in Tokitsuumi's topknot, but the officials decided to award the komusubi the win as the infraction was not intentional.

Mongolian former komusubi Kyokushuzan offered little resistance against the throat-clutching attack of Takatoriki, 8-7, as he backed out over the ring's edge. Still, he will be looking to edge up the rankings from No. 8 maegashira with his 9-6 record.

Results in Scoreboard

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