Lopez equals Karelin with third consecutive wrestling gold
Greco-Roman wrestling heavyweight Mijain Lopez cemented his status as one of the sport’s greats by matching legendary Russian grappler Aleksandr Karelin's haul of three Olympic golds.
The Greco-Roman wrestling 130kg final featured a rematch of the 2015 World Championship final between Cuba’s Lopez and Riza Kayaalp from Turkey. On that occasion it was the Turk who prevailed. In Rio Cuba's team flagbearer looked determined to avoid a repeat and he wasted no time as he threw Kayaalp 20 seconds into the bout to earn four technical points. By the end of the first period the gap was five points and Lopez extended it to 6-0 in the second.
With one minute to go the judge awarded a two-point penalty against Kayaalp after he appeared to strike the Cuban in the face. The resulting eight-point difference would have automatically ended the bout, but Lopez’s joy was quickly put on hold as the decision was reversed.
With no further scoring Lopez was able to resume his victory celebrations soon enough, and he did so with a salsa-infused hip-shimmy in the middle of the mat, sending the strong Cuban fan base and an arena full of Brazilians into ecstasy. On winning the third consecutive gold, the wrestler said: “I'm so proud of reaching the same level of the great Karelin, this is just a tremendous honour. I promised I was going to do it, and I did it. The dance just came naturally to me, Brazil is Brazil, and in Brazil you have to dance!”
Lopez won golds in his 130kg category in Beijing and London. He has also won five world championship titles and three silvers, cementing his status as a sporting legend in Cuba. Sabah Shariati representing Azerbaijan and Russian Sergey Semenov shared the bronze medals.
Chakvetdze wins 85kg gold
In the 85kg final, European Games winner Davit Chakvetadze of Russia was trailing world champion Zhan Beleniuk of Ukraine 2-0 in the first period but rallied in the second to overcome his opponent 9-2 on technical points. Javid Hamzatau from Belarus and German surprise package Denis Maksymilian Kudla picked up the bronze medals.
“The first period was a bit tough for me,” admitted Chakvetadze. “But in the second period I was able to concentrate and win. I pulled myself together, focused and finished the match. I am the happiest man on earth. I want to thank everyone who supported me.”
Silver medallist Beleniuk gave his own performance “three out of five”, adding: “In the second half of the final, the fight did not work for me. The opponent was serious and uncomfortable for me. Therefore I will have to continue to train in order to win next time. We have met five times and with today's competition it is 3-2 in his favour.”