Sumo Wrestling's Newest Champion Euro-Trashes Stereotypes
His name is Kaloyan Mahlyanov, but for the past 6 years the strapping, 6'7" Bulgarian has made a name for himself in Japan as "Kotooshu" (Ko-TOH-shu). It's taken him 34 tournaments, but at last Kotooshu has achieved a singular honor as the very first European to win sumo wrestling's coveted Emperor's Cup.
The Emperor's Cup is awarded to the winner of a Grand Sumo tournament consisting of 15 bouts contested over a 2-week period. Six tournaments are held each year, and since early 2006 the victors have been either veteran powerhouse Asashoryu or serious up & comer Hakuho - both hailing from Mongolia and both being Yokozuna. Kotooshu defeated each of these top-ranked wrestlers on consecutive days, enabling him to sport a sparkling 14-1 record at the tournament's close.
The 346-pound Kotooshu looks somewhat incongruous in full sumo regalia with his hair styled in the traditional manner. He also doesn't fit the "big & fat" stereotype, being likened by many in the Japanese media as the "David Beckham of Sumo".
Smiling broadly after his stunning triumph and during the post-tournament ceremonies, Kotooshu received a multitude of trophies and awards including a vase of gold roses from Bulgaria's ambassador to Japan.
With his silver-haired father, Stefanov, in attendance at Tokyo's cavernous Ryogoku Kokugikan and waving a small Bulgarian flag, Kotooshu was obviously thrilled with his victory yet still retained his customary humility, saying "I have no words to express. I am so happy. I finally did it!"
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