Lone yokozuna Terunofuji clinched his seventh Emperor's Cup at the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday, defeating ozeki Mitakeumi after the joint overnight leader, No. 4 maegashira Takanosho, lost to No. 12 Sadanoumi.
The Mongolian-born grand champion closed out the 15-day competition at Ryogoku Kokugikan on a seven-match unbeaten streak to finish with a 12-3 record, one win ahead of Takanosho, Sadanoumi and komusubi Daieisho.
The tournament was marked by substandard performances from all three ozeki, with Takakeisho the only one to register a winning record at 8-7.
Terunofuji manhandled Mitakeumi (6-9) in Day 15's final bout, wrapping him up at the jump and jostling him to the edge for a force-out victory.
"I have to say, (the tournament) felt longer than usual," Terunofuji said. "But I came in determined to do strong sumo for 15 days straight, regardless of the results."
Chasing his maiden top-division crown, Takanosho fell at the final hurdle in his battle with fellow title hopeful Sadanoumi.
The former sekiwake drove Sadanoumi to the edge, where the No. 12 countered with a beltless arm throw that sent his opponent flying off the dohyo.
Takanosho earned his first career Outstanding Performance Award for his efforts at the tournament, although it may provide small consolation after letting a maiden championship slip through his fingers. He held the outright lead before losing to sekiwake Wakatakakage on Day 13.
"I told myself I had to win (on the final day) but I ended up losing, so I really want to make up for it at the next tournament," Takanosho said. "I felt a lot of pressure being in the championship race. It was the first time for me, so I think it was a great experience."
Terunofuji's championship marks another triumphant chapter in his remarkable career. The Ulaanbaatar native overcame major health obstacles, including surgical reconstruction of both knees, to climb all the way back from sumo's fifth-tier jonidan division to the elite makuuchi division in July 2020.
He struggled early in the latest tournament after returning from knee and heel injuries that forced his early withdrawal from competition in March. But after taking his third loss on Day 8 against Takanosho, he came home strong to wrap up the title.
"I was a little anxious before the tournament started...so maybe I felt rushed to show good results, but about halfway through I started to do better," Terunofuji said.
"Since I'm a yokozuna, I really feel obligated to put out good results, so I was really disappointed (withdrawing from) the last tournament. I wanted to make up for it."
Takakeisho (8-7) defeated fellow ozeki Shodai (5-9) to narrowly avoid becoming the third wrestler from sumo's second-highest rank to finish the meet with a losing record.
The two-time grand tournament winner thrust down his opponent, but had to wait for the ringside judges to confirm he did not step out first.
Both Shodai and Mitakeumi will head into the July tournament as demotion-threatened "kadoban" ozeki and must each secure at least eight wins to avoid demotion to sekiwake.
Former sekiwake Daieisho temporarily kept his campaign for a second top-division title alive by beating No. 8 Shimanoumi (7-8). Unable to make ground with his preferred pushing and thrusting attack, Daieisho slapped Shimanoumi down.
Daieisho, who beat Terunofuji on the opening day, earned his fifth Outstanding Performance Prize.
The 35-year-old Sadanoumi, meanwhile, won his second career Fighting Spirit Prize and his first since May 2014, the tournament he first entered the makuuchi division.
March tournament winner Wakatakakage improved to 9-6 by pushing out fellow sekiwake Abi, who faces demotion after finishing with a 7-8 record.
Abi made early ground with his thrusting attack, but after the pair came to a clinch, the bout turned in favor of Wakatakakage, who pushed his way to the win.
Komusubi Hoshoryu finished at 8-7 after succumbing to a twisting overarm throw against No. 2 Kiribayama (10-5). The rising star from Mongolia has secured winning records in both his tournaments among the three elite "sanyaku" ranks below yokozuna.