Hakuho closed out the year with a big win over new rival Harumafuji at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Nov. 25 that wraps up his 23rd Emperor's Cup title.
And by emerging victorious in the first all-yokozuna final in nearly three years, Hakuho established him once again as the man to beat going into 2013.
In the final bout of the year, Harumafuji came out hard in hopes of regaining some face after suffering four consecutive upsets that had already eliminated him from the title race. But unable to budge his Mongolian nemesis in a grappling style, Harumafuji tried to change his arm position and Hakuho used the opening to flip him to the dirt.
Hakuho had just one loss, to Kotooshu on Nov. 21. Harumafuji won the last two tournaments, after Kyokutenho took the title. So Hakuho was especially happy to be back in the spotlight.
"It's been awhile since I have won the title,'' he said before thanking his fans in Mongolia in his native language. "I never gave up hope that this day would come again.''
It was a tough 15 days for Harumafuji, who ends with a 9-6 record and is apparently nursing a sore ankle, not to mention cuts and bruises across his shoulders. His homestretch meltdown was certainly a letdown coming after his two perfect tournaments before Kyushu. But he has a lot of time ahead of him--barring any major physical problems--and displayed a good deal of fire earlier on.
In a bout worthy of ozeki rivals, Mongolia's Kakuryu and Kisenosato both went for the belt and grappled determinedly against each other at center ring. Although they were evenly matched, Kakuryu had the deeper grip--and the looser belt--and Kisenosato fell to his fifth loss. Kakuryu finished with nine wins.
Sekiwake Goeido tossed ozeki Kotoshogiku to the dirt for his 11th win. Kotoshogiku will remain an ozeki since he finished with eight wins. He now has some time to get back into form after suffering through the past two tournaments with an injury that has sapped his strength. Goeido, meanwhile, claims the technique prize for his performance.
Ozeki Kotooshu drove out No. 5 maegashira Toyohibiki (9-6) for his ninth win. The Bulgarian warded off demotion and beat Hakuho in a major upset but was yet again never a factor in the championship race.
Sekiwake Myogiryu got a win over No. 6 maegashira Kyokutenho (10-5) despite being taken all the way to brink of defeat. He twisted at just the right instant and stood with his heel just inches away from touching out as the Mongolian fell.
Myogiryu goes home with a losing record, 6-9, even though he created a bit of a sensation by overcoming Harumafuji, Kakuryu and Kotoshogiku one after another.
Komusubi Aminishiki shoved out an injured No. 4 maegashira Masunoyama after rushing back to the edge under fire. Both end 2012 as losers overall, however. The win puts Aminishiki at 7-8 and Masunoyama 5-10.
Maegashira No. 2 Shohozan won a special award for his spirited showing this tournament, which he closed on a high note with a win over No. 7 maegashira Aran of Russia. Shohozan pulled off 10 wins--three of them in matches with ozeki--which is an excellent record.
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