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Kaloyan Kaloyanov, a 36-year-old Bulgarian world class gymnast who has been arrested in connection with a 2000 sexual assault of a 15-year-old female gymnastics student, is seen in a 1999 DMV photo. Kaloyanov used to live and work in Fremont when the crime is alleged to have occurred. He'd been on the run since 2002, when he was placed on Fremont Police's most wanted list. He has been arrested and is expected to be in court early next week. (1999 DMV File via Fremont Police/Contributed)

FREMONT -- A 36-year-old former world-class athlete who remained on the city's Most Wanted suspected criminal list for nearly a decade has been arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a gymnastics student in 2000.

Kaloyan Kaloyanov, a Bulgarian native whom police have been seeking for eight years, was arrested last week in Mexico aboard a cruise ship on which he worked.

He was held in the ship's brig area for six days by security guards, then transferred Sunday to the Long Beach Police Department's custody after the boat docked, Fremont police Detective Michael Gebhardt said.

Kaloyanov remained behind bars in Southern California on Tuesday, but he is expected to be transported to the Bay Area later this week in order to be arraigned early next week.

The former international gymnastics star was placed on Fremont's Most Wanted list in 2002 -- it can be viewed at www.fremontpolice.org -- after police said he apparently abandoned his wife and daughter and fled the country after he admitted to having sexual relations with a 15-year-old girl whom he trained at a local gymnastics school.

Kaloyanov competed in the 1997 and 1998 Aerobic Gymnastics World Championships, and he also participated in several events with his wife.

For a few years after those competitions, he lived in Fremont with his wife and their child. The couple worked for Top Flight Gymnastics in Fremont, but they no longer are associated with it.


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Kaloyanov left the country after being questioned by police investigating a rape case. His wife since has moved out of state with their child, the detective said.

Police said the girl, who is 25 now, told authorities that Kaloyanov sexually assaulted her twice while training for competitions.

During the initial interview in 2002, Kaloyanov admitted to having sex with the girl. However, investigators working the case did not immediately arrest him, said Gebhardt, who was assigned to work the cold case about two weeks ago.

After the interview, he apparently fled.

"He has been in the wind for eight years," the detective said.

The case remained open, but it was not an active investigation. The suspect's picture was placed on the police department's website with a note that read that he was wanted only for assault.

About two weeks ago, when detectives of the department's sex crimes unit began reviewing cold cases, Gebhardt did something that is commonplace today, yet almost unheard of in 2002: He ran the suspect's name through Google.

With just a few keystrokes and clicks of a mouse, Gebhardt tracked down Kaloyanov's Facebook page -- which since has been deleted -- and reviewed several images that showed him posing in front of cruise ships.

After a little more digging, Gebhardt learned that he had been an employee of Carnival Cruise Lines for four years, working as a fitness instructor and most recently as a manager of an onboard hair salon.

With aid from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, New York Police Department's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Task Force, the U.S. Coast Guard and ship security, Gebhardt was able to determine Kaloyanov's whereabouts and coordinate his arrest.

Gebhardt and Detective Ricardo Cortes met with authorities in Southern California on Sunday, and then with Kaloyanov.

Gebhardt said that Kaloyanov was shocked at the lengths Fremont police went to capture him.

"He was thoroughly surprised," the detective said.

Contact Ben Aguirre Jr. at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/benaguirrejr.