It took him 20 years, but Mongolia's No. 7 maegashira Kyokutenho finally won his first tournament with a victory on May 20 over No. 4 maegashira Tochiozan in the finale of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament.
At 37 years and eight months, Kyokutenho is the oldest wrestler to claim his first championship title.
Kyokutenho burst into tears almost as soon as he was out of the ring after winning the sport's first-ever tie-breaker between two rank-and-file wrestlers. He and Tochiozan went into the match with 12-3 records. Ozeki Kisenosato crashed out of the race when he lost his regulation bout.
The win is the 50th championship for a Mongolian-born wrestler. Kyokutenho has Japanese citizenship, but was born in Mongolia. The last time a Japanese-born wrestler won was six years ago.
"I can't believe it,'' Kyokutenho said. "I drank some sake before going to bed last night, but it didn't hurt my performance any, so I am happy. Since I made it this far I didn't want to let people down.''
Setting up the tie-breaker, Tochiozan got an automatic win over ozeki Kotooshu, who withdrew from the tournament before his final bout with an 8-6 record, which for the Bulgarian is not too bad but which was a great disappointment for the sold-out crowd at the Ryogoku Kokugikan arena in Tokyo. They were hoping to see a real fight and not a walkover.
The last-minute withdrawal brought an apology from the Japan Sumo Association, and a not-so-subtle criticism of Kotooshu.
Kyokutenho had to fight for his spot. He managed to drive out sekiwake Goeido in his final regulation bout, but it was a close one.
Goeido had him on the edge and he fought his way back into an attacking position. Goeido stepped out, but before the bout was stopped he threw Kyokutenho onto his backside and it appeared for a moment that Kyokutenho had lost. The judge saw the overstep, and called it for the Mongolian.
Estonia's Baruto burst fellow ozeki Kisenosato's dreams of making it a three-way tiebreaker, fighting his way off the raised edge and twisting Kisenosato over before throwing him to the dirt. The loss dropped Kisenosato to 11-4, and took him out of the running. Baruto already had six losses, so his motivation was all about pride.
In other final-day matches, yokozuna Hakuho was escorted out of the ring by Mongolian compatriot Harumafuji. Hakuho closes what has been a surprisingly bad tournament with a 10-5 record--including his first three-loss streak as a yokozuna--but possibly with a stronger resolve to do better next time.
Harumafuji just barely ended with a winning record, 8-7.
Wrapping up his debut at ozeki with a loss, Mongolia's Kakuryu was driven out by Kotoshogiku, who goes home with 10 wins to Kakuryu's eight. Kotoshogiku was an early leader with a six-win run from opening day, but then faded badly.
Sekiwake Toyonoshima (7-8) got in low and manhandled No. 5 maegashira Okinoumi (10-5) around the ring. He then ran out of steam and had to simply hold his ground until he got his spark back, but drove the big rank-and-filer out.
Komusubi Aminishiki, who was certainly one of the most interesting wrestlers of the tournament, was pounded out of the ring by No. 6 maegashira Aoiyama, Bulgaria's new rising star. Aminishiki was the man who beat Hakuho on the opening day, breaking the yokozuna's finger in the process, and also defeated three of the six ozeki. But he ends with a losing record, 7-8. Aoiyama, however, finishes with 11 wins and is certain of a hefty promotion.
Komusubi Homasho was too fast and too strong for No. 3 maegashira Toyohibiki. Homasho pulled off only four wins and Toyohibiki only had five, so it wasn't a good tournament for either wrestler.
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