Bulgarian Ozeki Kotooshu – first European to win Emperor’s Cup

Kyodo News

Bulgarian yogurt is no longer the country’s most well-known export to Japan.

Ozeki Kotooshu forces out sekiwake Ama
Unprecedented: Ozeki Kotooshu forces out sekiwake Ama to become the first European-born sumo wrestler to win the Emperor’s Cup at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan on the 14th day of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament 2008. KYODO PHOTO

That honor belongs to Kotooshu, who beat Mongolian Ama on Saturday to claim the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament title with a 13-1 record and enter the history books as the first European to win an Emperor’s Cup.

The Bulgarian ozeki, whose real name is Kaloyan Mahlyanov, was a ball of nerves in falling to a first lost against Aminishiki with a chance to take home the spoils a day earlier, but made no mistakes against his diminutive sekiwake opponent on the 14th day.

Kotooshu came flying out of the crouch, getting both arms wrapped around Ama’s mawashi before tackling his opponent from behind at Ryogoku Kokugikan. Ama slipped to 9-5.

“I have no words to express. I am so happy. I finally did it,” said Kotooshu, who took 34 tournaments from his sumo debut to win the Emperor’s Cup.

Ozeki Kotooshu speaks to the media while getting his mage
Ozeki Kotooshu speaks to the media while getting his mage (top knot of hair) reshaped after winning his first Emperor’s Cup at the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament 2008 at Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo. Kotooshu became the first European to win a sumo championship. KYODO PHOTO

Kotooshu entered the meet with one goal in mind — getting a majority of wins to maintain his ozeki status. But the 25-year-old has been on fire, conquering both yokozuna en route to matching his previous best winning streak of 12-0 as a sekiwake at the 2005 autumn basho.

“I had to put yesterday behind me and just focused on the match. I was really moved,” said Kotooshu, whose father Stefanov stood from the crowd and waved a Bulgarian flag after his son’s victory.

Kotooshu became the seventh foreign wrestler to win a title, following in the footsteps of the likes of former Hawaiian yokozuna Akebono and Musashimaru and Mongolians Asashoryu and Hakuho.

“I still can’t believe it. My mind is a blank. I am reminded of all of the hardship I’ve been through. . .,” said Kotooshu, who has struggled with “small-scale” sumo and injuries in recent years since gaining promotion to ozeki at the 2005 Kyushu meet.