SUMO | Terunofuji completes top-ranked debut in sport with fall title



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With the title already secured, new yokozuna Terunofuji dominated ozeki Shodai on the final day of the fall Grand Sumo tournament to put the finishing touches on his championship-winning debut at the top of the sport.

Mongolian Terunofuji grabbed Shodai’s belt with two hands shortly after the showdown and bulldozed his opponent to end the tournament with an impressive 13-2 record and win his fifth championship on Sunday, September 26.

Shodai, who was unable to rise to the challenge in the final fight of the day at Ryogoku Kokugikan, finished with an 8-7 record.

“I’m glad I gave it my all,” Terunofuji said shortly after accepting the material. “I just wanted to focus on each individual day and try not to go overboard. Before I got to the site today, I was ready for anything that could happen and was able to do whatever I could.

Terunofuji became the 73rd grand champion in July after going 14-1 at the Nagoya tournament.

With fellow grand champion Hakuho absent from the tournament after two of his team mates tested positive for the coronavirus, Terunofuji was the big favorite ahead of the fall basho.

However, there were questions about his knees on which he was operated. But he held up well and won his third tournament of the year with relative ease.

His only losses came at the hands of lower-ranking wrestler Daieisho and sekiwake Meisei.

“I didn’t want to think too much,” Terunofuji said. “I think it’s the job of a sumo wrestler to show the fans that you are doing your best every day. I appreciate the fact that I was able to win the tournament when I started out at yokozuna.

The title was decided about 10 minutes before Terunofuji entered the ring when new sekiwake Meisei easily defeated Myogiryu, the only other wrestler still in the running, in the penultimate fight to remove the drama from the proceedings.

Meisei used an under-the-shoulder movement to send Myogiryu in seconds and beat any title hopes the 10th-ranked maegashira might have had.

Meisei improved to 8-7 while Myogiryu, who won the tournament’s technical prize, fell to 11-4.

In the penultimate fight of the day, sekiwake Mitakeumi dominated ozeki Takakeisho with a series of pushes to finish with a 9-6 record.

Having already completed the winning record he needed to maintain his ozeki status, Takakeisho didn’t put up much resistance and fell to 8-7.

The two ozeki finished with 8-7 records, a result that sumo officials won’t like as more is expected of those second in the sport.

In other major fights, fourth-place maegashira Daieisho forced Ichinojo with several powerful punches to improve to 10-5. Daieisho received the tournament’s Outstanding Performance Award, in part thanks to his victory over Terunofuji.

Mongolian komusubi Ichinojo finished with an 8-7 record.

Third-ranked maegashira Wakatakakage won their fifth straight fight when they crushed Chiyonokuni shortly after the showdown to give the two wrestlers a 9-6 record.

Second-ranked maegashira Kiribayama hoisted No.16 Chiyomaru (8-7) over the Straw Ridge to finish at 9-6.

Ninth maegashira Hidenoumi used a twisting motion to knock Hoshoryu down and claim his seventh win against eight losses.

Top maegashira Hoshoryu, who missed two days with tonsillitis, finished the tournament with a 5-8-2 record.

Mongolian No.4 maegashira Tamawashi (6-9) used a barrage of arm blows to send Onosho overboard in a one-sided fight. Onosho, who was in contention for the title until Day 14, fell to 10-5.

Further down the ranks, the No. 11 maegashira Endo deployed an Okinoumi arm throw to finish with an 11-4 record. No.8 Okinoumi fell to 10-5.

Three stars

First star: Terunofuji. There is nothing better than winning the title on your debut as a yokozuna and the new grand champion deserves all the accolades.

Second star: Meisei. Even though he pulled out some drama from the final day, Meisei ran into an opponent who had everything to fight.

Third star: Endo. With an impressive 11-4 record, the No.11 maegashira will climb the ranks for the next tournament in November.

Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sport in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles here, on JAPAN Forward.

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