Kotooshu calls time on career

TOKYO (Kyodo, SumoTalk) Kotooshu, the first European wrestler to ever win an Emperor’s Cup and achieve sumo’s second highest rank of ozeki, retired today.

The Bulgarian rikishi submitted his retirement papers to the Japan Sumo Association (JSA). He said he has reached his physical limit and no longer possesses the energy to continue wrestling.

Kotooshu, 31, was promoted to the ozeki rank in January 2006 and served at the second highest rank for 47 tournaments — the fourth longest on the all-time list. Kotooshu Katsunori made his sumo debut in 2002. He fought 57 basho in the Makuuchi division finishing with a 466-322 record with 63 kyujo bouts.

At the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament 2014, Kotooshu withdrew from the meet on the 11th day with a shoulder injury.

Kotooshu plans to instruct junior wrestlers. As an elder in the JSA, he will be known as stable master Kotooshu. Wrestlers who achieve the rank of ozeki can retain their ring name for three years after retirement.

In January 2014, Kotooshu became naturalized Japanese. He took his wife’s maiden name and now his real name is Karoyan Ando.

Under Japan Sumo Association rules, wrestlers can only become sumo elders if they are Japanese nationals. Sumo elder membership, however, can only be obtained by purchasing elder stock (toshiyori kabu) in the JSA.

There are only 105 shares available for purchase, and the increasing lifespan of elders has meant that they take longer to become vacant. As a result, their decreasing availability has caused their price to greatly increase, with stock now reportedly selling for up to ¥500 million.

“My body is too broken down for me to do the kind of sumo I want to,” Kotooshu began at a press conference surrounded by his stable master, Sadogatake-oyakata. “I felt that my time was done after being thrown by Hakuho on day 10,” he explained. The former Ozeki said he talked to his stable master that evening about his decision and said that he had no regrets. Regarding Hakuho as his final opponent, he said, “We rose up the ranks together and practiced seemingly every day. I’m really happy that my last bout was against Hakuho-zeki.”

When asked what his greatest memory was, Kotooshu singled out the 2008 Natsu basho where he won his only career yusho. “My father came from Bulgaria, and of course my stable master and the kamisan were there, so it was neat to win yusho in front of all my parents.”

The retirement ceremony will take place on 4 October, 2014 at Tokyo Ryogoku Kokugikan.