"Bulgaria's most famous export after yoghurt" (The Daily Yomiuri, Japan, 2005)
The tallest1 active sumo wrestler right now is Bulgarian ozeki2 Kotooshu. He is 204 cm tall and weighs only 142 kg, which makes him a fairly lightweight sumotori (sumo wrestler). Being tall and almost slim is not normally an advantage for a sumo wrestler, but Kotooshu does not seem to be aware of this fact! He is using his height and reach to pick up and throw his opponents (32 % of his wins in the last six basho were won by throws).
Kotooshu - or Mahlyanov Kaloyan - was born in the Bulgarian town of Veliko Tarnovo on February 19, 1983 as the son of a Bulgarian Wrestling Federation champion. At the age of 12 he joined a sports-school to be able to study and wrestle at the same time. He truly loved wrestling, and he and his school mates often stayed on after training, wrestling just for fun.
During his years in school he watched sumo on TV and fell in love with the sport. He entered European sumo, wrestling with success in the below 115 kg-class. At the age of 19 he won his first tournament, attracting the attention of a Japanese former sumotori. A year later, in 2002, he moved to Japan to join Sadogatake beya, taking the shikona (ring name) Kotooshu, which means "European Harp".
Though he had some initial trouble adapting - especially to the food, the chanko nabe - Kotooshu always did his best. He was reputed to be very dedicated and hard working, and in May 2004 he was promoted to the juryo3
division. (After Kotooshu's first day of training as a sekitori3, yokozuna Asashoryu showed up, quite unexpectedly. He gave the young wrestler some good advice, and let him take a few swings at him. Quite an experience for a newly promoted sekitori).
Kotooshu did not waste any time in juryo, once he got there, though: he only fought two basho (tournaments) as juryo before he was promoted to makuuchi - to maegashira2 14 - in September 2004.
Kotooshu did not hang about in the maegashira ranks for very long either. After just three basho he advanced to komusubi. This is the fastest4 any sumotori has ever advanced to sanyaku2. Not only is he the first European sumotori to come this far; he is also noted as the fourth fastest sumotori to advance through the divisions below juryo, sharing this fourth place with the two yokozuna, Takanohana (retired March 2003) and Asashoryu. On November 30, 2005 Kotooshu was promoted to the rank of ozeki. Asashoryu was promoted to ozeki after 22 basho, but Kotooshu made it in only 19.
Kotooshu has won the following special prizes:
- 1 Emperor's Cup (for winning 1 basho)
- 3 Kanto sho (Fighting Spirit Prize)
- 2 Shukun sho (Outstanding Performance Award)
The Bulgarian sumotori still has a lot of good sumo in him, and there is little doubt that he will go far, maybe all the way to yokozuna.
- The tallest ever wrestler was Fudoiwa at 214 cm.
- The ranks in the makuuchi, the top division in sumo are, from the bottom up: maegashira, komusubi, sekiwake, ozeki, and yokozuna. The latter four ranks is called sanyaku.
- Juryo is the division right below makuuchi. Wrestlers in juryo and makuuchi are called sekitori
- That is: he is the fastest since the "6 basho a year"-system was introduced in 1958.
An interesting fact: Kotooshu's keshomawashi (colourful silk apron for eg. ring-entering ceremonies) is sponsored by "Meiji Dairies Corporation", a company which produces "Bulgaria Yogurt".
My sources are everywhere on the web, but I have found www.scgroup.com/sumo and www.sumo.or.jp/eng to be very helpful.
For this w/u www.lemondedusumo.com/english has been great reading