Kotooshu claims Emperor’s Cup

Compiled from Kyodo, AP

The metamorphosis is nearly complete.

Kotooshu poses with the Emperor\'s Cup at Tokyo\'s Ryogoku Kokugikan
Banzai: Summer Grand Sumo Tournament champion Kotooshu poses with the Emperor’s Cup at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan. KYODO PHOTO

A day after becoming the first European to capture an Emperor’s Cup in the ancient Japanese sport, Kotooshu dispatched of ozeki Chiyotaikai Sunday to finish his campaign with an outstanding 14-1 record on the final day of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament.

The Bulgarian ozeki, who entered the Tokyo meet facing demotion, did a complete about-face en route to winning his first title to join the three other ozeki in claiming the tournament hardware.

“I still can’t believe it,” said Kotooshu. “I really moved well and kept my focus on each day this meet. I struggled with injuries but I have all my fans to thank in supporting me for the title victory.”

In his final bout, Kotooshu got both hands around Chiyotaikai before forcing his opponent over the edge in convincing fashion at Ryogoku Kokugikan. Chiyotaikai fell to an unflattering 5-10 mark.

Bulgarian Ambassador Blagovest Sendov hailed Kotooshu’s victory, calling him “a national pride.”

“We Bulgarians, as well as Kotooshu, learned from sumo the importance of patience and endeavor,” Sendov was quoted as saying in a statement. “I’m certain that the victory would further deepen relations between Japan and Bulgaria.”

The litmus test for the 25-year-old Kotooshu, who has gained a reputation for “small-scale” sumo, will be staying consistent enough to continue to rain on the parades of yokozuna duo Asashoryu and Hakuho.

To get the green light for promotion to sumo’s ultimate rank, Kotooshu, who conquered both yokozuna at the 15-day meet, will have to continue winning in a big way.

Back-to-back title wins would virtually assure his ascension.

“I am not thinking about that (promotion to yokozuna). All I am concerned with is doing my best and staying focused on each day of sumo,” Kotooshu said.

In a clash of Mongolian titans, Asashoryu got a hold of rival Hakuho’s arm before pulling him off-balance to touch the dohyo surface and gave his opponent a cheeky shove after the bout was finished. The pair glared at each other before leaving the ring.

It was obviously a case of sour grapes for Asashoryu, who along with Hakuho finished with an unimpressive 11-4 mark.

Asashoryu was bidding for consecutive title wins here and his career 23rd Emperor’s Cup while Hakuho was aiming for a seventh career title.

Kisenosato, who beat Asashoryu on the opening day, rammed out Miyabiyama (6-9) to pick up his 10th win along with his second Fighting Spirit Prize.

Aminishiki, who was the only rikishi to hand Kotooshu a defeat, won his third Outstanding Performance Prize with a record of 10-5, beating Asasekiryu (6-9) on the final day.

Toyonoshima took the Fighting Spirit Prize for a second time with an 11-4 record.

Ama, who defeated Hakuho and executed an impressive “utchari” reversal throw against Wakanoho on the eighth day, won his third Technique Prize, ending his campaign at 9-6 after losing to Toyonoshima.

Kotomitsuki beat fellow ozeki Kaio as both men just passed the grade at 8-7, while Chiyotaikai, who will face relegation for a record 12th time at the Nagoya meet in July, posted double-digit defeats for the first time participating in a full meet since his debut in sumo.

Russian youngster Wakanoho barged out Hokutoriki (10-5) to finish with a majority of wins, ensuring a promotion in the rankings for the 19-year-old.