The opening day of the Rio 2016 wrestling competition saw Cuba’s Ismael Borrero Molina and Russia’s Roman Vlasov take the honours as they collected respective golds in the Greco-Roman 59kg and 75kg categories.
The reigning world champion at his weight, the Cuban had the honour of winning the first gold of the competition, beating surprise finalist Shinobu Ota of Japan. Later in the day, London 2012 74kg champion Vlasov topped the podium again thanks to his defeat of Denmark’s Mark Overgaard Madsen.
Played out before a large and enthusiastic crowd at Carioca Arena 2, wrestling’s opening day at Rio 2016 proved to be a big success, with the rule changes introduced before the Games yielding no shortage of fast, aggressive action on the mat and more scoring.
The Japanese Ota was the breakout star of the day, coming out of nowhere to beat several medal contenders on his unlikely route to the final, among them defending champion and seven-time world champion Hamid Soryan of the Islamic Republic of Iran 5-4 in the preliminary round.
2015 world champion Molina was in no mood to let Ota cap his day with gold, however, seizing his first chance to lift up and throw his Japanese opponent to the mat to take the lead in the first period of the final, and sealing victory with another throw in the second. In running out an 8-0 winner, Molina gave Cuba a wrestling gold for the seventh successive Games. The bronze medals went to Stig-Andre Berge of Norway and Elmurat Tasmuradov of Uzbekistan.
“I’m really glad to be an Olympic champion,” said Molina. There’s a lot of emotion. It’s so hard to explain.” Reflecting on the final, he added: “It went really fast but I was able to be a stronger athlete and come out on top.”
In the 75kg, Vlasov shrugged off a cut eyebrow sustained in an early bout to see off Madsen, the man he beat to win the 2015 75kg world crown. “I am feeling very well,” said Vlasov after striking gold for the second Games running. “It is a pleasure to be here. Not only me but a lot of people tried to get this (medal). And now the dream came true and we are here. There are a lot of emotions. I have so much to say but I don’t have enough words to say it. Just, I am so happy now.
The Republic of Korea’s Kim Hyeonwoo shared the bronze with Saeid Morad Abdvali of the Islamic Republic of Iran.