Kotooshu of Bulgaria, the first European sumo wrestler to win an Emperor's Cup
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.
Kotooshu (right) charges his opponent on the final day of the 2008 Spring Sumo Tournament in Tokyo
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.
Here's a video of the final bout on the tournament's 11th day between Kotooshu (right) and Asashoryu (left), one of the two current Yokozuna grand champions. Note that after Kotooshu's win, fans in the audience throw their seat cushions - traditional practice on the rare occasions when a Yokozuna loses a match:
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".
Kotooshu takes a celebratory convertible ride through Tokyo's streets
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.
Proud Papa congratulates Kotooshu on his day of triumph
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!"