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Profile: Former ozeki Kotooshu, first European-born sumo stablemaster in Japan

Bulgarian-born former ozeki Kotooshu, second from left, shakes hands with his disciples at his Naruto stable in Tokyo's Sumida Ward on April 1, 2017. (Mainichi)

With former ozeki Kotooshu becoming the first European-born sumo stablemaster in Japan on April 1, it is worth looking back at the wrestler's impressive career to date.

Born in Bulgaria in 1983, Kotooshu, now stablemaster Naruto, excelled at wrestling as a child, after first becoming involved in the sport at the age of 12. At one point, he was a candidate for the Bulgarian Olympic wrestling team, and he has also held the position of junior European wrestling champion.

At the age of 19, Kotooshu moved to Japan, and shortly after his move, the wrestler stepped into a competitive sumo ring for the very first time -- at a tournament in Kyushu in 2002. In 2005, he rose to the rank of ozeki, after competing in only 19 tournaments, and then in 2008, he won the May tournament.

The first time he started to think about becoming independent was when his master, the former yokozuna Kotozakura, said to him, "Your rank is ozeki now, so you can think about going it alone."

In January 2014, Kotooshu obtained Japanese nationality, and then retired two months later. He went on to study at Nippon Sport Science University, where he focused on training theory. Subsequently, he became keen on combining his sumo experience with what he learned at Japanese and Bulgarian universities to create a new style of sumo teaching.

At the opening of his new Naruto stable on April 1, approximately 100 people attended -- including sekiwake Kotoshogiku from the Sadogatake stable. The new stable is temporarily based in a property in Tokyo's Sumida Ward, but Naruto plans to relocate to a new property in the same ward within the next two years. The former sumo star states, "I want to nurture a wrestler who will eclipse me," as he looks toward teaching other disciples at his stable, including one from Bulgaria.

Similarly, Mongolian-born former sekiwake Kyokutenho, now stablemaster Oshima, will also launch a stable after the summer tournament -- as it is planned that he will take over control of the Tomozuna stable in June this year.

"Since I belonged to two different stables, I hope to adopt good practices from the both," Oshima said.

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