Lone yokozuna Terunofuji hit the first stumbling block of his injury comeback at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Monday, losing a marathon bout against No. 1 maegashira Wakamotoharu.

The 32-year-old grand champion is aiming to get back on track at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan after withdrawing from the past three tournaments with severe back pain. He has also been dealing with ever-present concerns about his two surgically repaired knees.

Both Terunofuji and Wakamotoharu tried to win by force out before locking up in the middle. A foiled throw attempt from Terunofuji preceded another long stalemate that ended with Wakamotoharu rallying to force the Mongolian-born yokozuna over the straw in 1 minute, 40.9 seconds.

"I used all my energy and gave it my all," said former sekiwake Wakamotoharu (1-1), who has dropped out of the three distinguished "sanyaku" ranks below yokozuna for the first time since November 2022. "It's kind of motivated me. I want to prove that I am worthy of sanyaku."

Yokozuna Terunofuji (top) loses to No. 1 maegashira Wakamotoharu on Day 2 of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan on Jan. 15, 2024. (Kyodo)

Promotion-seeking ozeki Kirishima stayed on track with his second win on Day 2 of the 15-day tournament, which came via push out against komusubi Takayasu.

Kirishima can secure promotion to yokozuna by winning his second straight championship. He proved too strong for former ozeki Takayasu (1-1), shoving him over the straw after they clashed heavily at the jump.

Kirishima (R) defeats Takayasu on Day 2 of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan on Jan. 15, 2024. (Kyodo)

Ozeki Takakeisho (2-0) had to dig deep to overcome fast-rising No. 1 maegashira Atamifuji (0-2). The four-time Emperor's Cup winner forced the talented 21-year-old out in a replay of last September's championship playoff, also won by Takakeisho.

Ozeki Hoshoryu stayed perfect by outmuscling No. 2 Midorifuji (0-2), who was quick out of the blocks before succumbing to a push out.

Sekiwake Kotonowaka, who is shooting for promotion to ozeki, improved to 2-0 with a hard-fought win by overarm throw against No. 3 Gonoyama (0-2).

The son of former sekiwake Kotonowaka and grandson of former yokozuna Kotozakura can meet the ozeki promotion benchmark of 33 victories over three consecutive tournaments as a komusubi or sekiwake by winning 13 or more bouts here.

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