|12-14-2005, 04:47 PM||#1|
Join Date: Oct 2003
Bulgarian sumo star says just doing his job
TOKYO (Reuters) - A Bulgarian who has become the first European to rise to sumo's second-highest rank was lauded as the continent's best envoy to Japan on Wednesday, but the giant grappler said he was simply doing his job.
Kaloyan Stefanov Mahlyanov, 22, known as Kotooshu in the sumo ring, was promoted to "ozeki" status last month, another sign of the dominance of foreigners in the ancient sport at a time when it is suffering from declining popularity.
Kotooshu, which means "European harp," has become something of a sensation in Japan, not only due to his performance in the ring but also because of his good looks, which have earned him the nickname "Beckham of sumo."
The ambassadors from the European Union and Bulgaria visited Kotooshu at the "stable" where he trains and presented him with gifts including French champagne, Bulgarian wine and a "Euro Kitty" mobile phone strap.
"Really, I'm very proud (of him)," said Bulgarian ambassador Balagovest Sendov. "I've already said to my friends that I'd become ambassador number two because Kotooshu is ambassador number one. He's even ambassador number one for Europe."
However, Kotooshu, who at 2.04 meters (6 ft 8 in) is the tallest grappler in Japanese professional sumo, said he was just doing his job.
"I'm just playing my sport," Kotooshu told Reuters. "If I'm helping to open the door between Europe and Japan, it makes me feel even better."
Kotooshu has been the subject of numerous TV specials, which have portrayed the 143 kg (315 lb) wrestler as being strong enough to crush an apple with one hand, but also as a shy youngster with a sensitive side.