Hakuho makes painful exit from New Year tourney

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - Yokozuna Hakuho’s bid for a second consecutive championship and record-extending 44th overall ended Wednesday with his sudden withdrawal from the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament partly due to back pain.

The 34-year-old Hakuho informed the Japan Sumo Association of his decision prior to the start of the fourth day of the 15-day tournament at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan, leaving him with a 1-3 record.

 Hakuho, who won his 43rd career title at the previous Kyushu tournament in November, lost on consecutive days from day two to the two No. 1 maegashira, Endo and Myogiryu, who both earned “kinboshi” for victories over a yokozuna. 

 According to stablemaster Miyagino, Hakuho pulled out due to a fever stemming from a bacterial infection and because of back pain. The injury occurred when he landed heavily on his back during his loss to Endo.

 Hakuho last withdrew during a tournament at last year’s Autumn basho, when he suffered a broken right pinkie. 

 Last year, he alternated between competing and withdrawing at tournaments. He captured the Emperor’s Cup twice, but only wrestled all 15 days of a tournament three times.

 Hakuho’s withdrawal leaves the tournament with Kakuryu as the lone yokozuna. Kakuryu has struggled as well, losing three of his first four bouts.

Title race thrown wide open

The Japan News

 Meanwhile, the race for the Emperor’s Cup was thrown wide open as two early leaders, Asanoyama and Endo, both went down to defeat in Day 4 action.

 Kakuryu fell farther off the pace when he was pushed out by No. 1 maegashira Myogiryu for his third loss.

 Newly promoted sekiwake Asano- yama was dealt his first loss when he was barged out by komusubi Abi, who used an effective slapping attack. 

 No. 1 maegashira Endo, who got off to a spectacular start with wins over Kakuryu, Hakuho and ozeki Goeido, was pushed down by ozeki Takakeisho, leaving both with 3-1 records. 

 Goeido earned his first win by defeating komusubi Daieisho (1-3) with a headlock throw. 

 Through four days, only four wrestlers  — all maegashira ranked — remain undefeated. No. 4 maegashira Shodai forced out sekiwake Takayasu (2-2) to improve to 4-0 along with No. 2 maegashira Hokutofuji, No. 11 maegashira Kagayaki and No. 14 maegashira Terutsuyoshi.

  Hokutofuji was the benefactor of Hakuho’s withdrawal, earning his win by default to stay unbeaten. 

 One of the interesting matches of the day saw No. 6 maegashira Tochinoshin take full advantage of his 191-centimeter height against 168-centimeter No. 5 maegashira Enho, literally lifting him up and depositing him outside the ring.