Bulgaria's Kotooshu first European to win biggest sumo prize
Less than six years after his debut in sumo wrestling, Bulgarian wrestler Kotooshu became the first European to win the Summer Grand Tournament in Tokyo and capture the Emperor's Cup, the biggest prize in the ancient sport.
"Finally, I made it," Kotooshu, born Kaloyan Mahlyanov, told reporters after he clinched the title a day before his final match on May 25th. "I can't find (the) right words to express my feelings."
The 25-year-old Bulgarian triumphed with a record 14 wins over 15 days, besting the two highest-ranked participants in the event, Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu and Hakuho. Kotooshu suffered only one defeat -- by the lower-ranked Aminishiki.
The wrestler's proud father, Stefan, was in Tokyo to watch. Sitting in the crowded Kokugikan stadium, he waved a small Bulgarian flag and shook hands with dozens of other spectators.
Back in his hometown of Dzhulyunitsa, Kotooshu's mother did not miss a match on TV, either. She and her friends are now experts of sorts on sumo, according to one of the friends.
At the age of 14, Kotooshu became a Greco-Roman wrestler. He won aEuropean championship but switched to sumo, making his debut inNovember 2002.
Kotooshu won promotion to ozeki, thesecond-highest category in sumo, in January 2006. Clinching the titlein Tokyo cleared the path for his promotion to yokozuna after aninjury-hampered two years. A victory at next month's Grand Tournamentin Nagoya would significantly strengthen Kotooshu's chances ofadvancement.