Russia, Great Britain and Thailand shine in the ring at Buenos Aires 2018
With four podium finishes each, the three countries won the most boxing medals at the YOG 2018. Russia did particularly well, with three golds and a silver medal.
The Russian, British but also Thai schools of boxing made a name for themselves in the ring of the Asia Pavilion, where a large crowd watched the hunt for medals in the 13 weight categories, nine male and four female.
Among the Russians, Ilia Popov (men’s light flyweight), Aleskei Dronov (men’s super-heavyweight) and Anasasiia Shamonova (women’s middleweight) won gold, with Ruslan Kolesnikov (light heavyweight) adding a silver medal. For the British team, Sara Caroline Dubois (women’s lightweight), Ivan Price (men’s flyweight) and Karol Itauma (men’s light heavyweight) won their finals. A fourth medal, this time bronze, was won by Hassan Hazim in the light welterweight category. Lastly, among the nations with more than one gold medal, Thailand had Panpatchara Somnuek (women’s flyweight) and Atichai Phoemsap (men’s lightweight). The South-East Asian team in fact achieved four podiums places, with a silver medal for Sarawut Sukthek (men’s flyweight) and a bronze for Weerapon Jongjoho (men’s middleweight).
The other boxing gold medals in these YOG 2018 went to Uzbekistan’s Abdumalik Khalokov (men’s bantamweight), Italy’s Martina La Piana (women’s flyweight), Argentina’s Brian Agustin Arregui (men’s welterweight), Brazil’s Keno Machado (men’s middleweight) and Kazakhstan’s Aibek Oralbay (men’s heavyweight).
The careful work on identifying talented youngsters and systematic participation in international competitions paved the way for the excellent results by Russia, which was the top boxing nation in Buenos Aires with three wins and a silver medal. “We keep fighting,” explained Russian team head coach Viktor Farkhutdinov. “We try to take part in all the tournaments around the world. If there is a competition, we do our best to be there: Japan, Thailand, India. We’re prepared to travel.”
“Eighteen months ago, we made some changes to our management and the national team, and improved our preparation. That’s probably the reason for this great performance.” Gold medallists Aleksei Dronov and Anastasiia Shamonova confirmed the junior world titles they had won two months before in Budapest, while Ilia Popov finally obtained her place on the top step of the podium, after being beaten in the final of the junior world championships.
Great results for Great Britain, too
The only final the Russians lost was the men’s light heavyweight category, where Britain’s Karol Itauma beat junior world champion Ruslan Kolesnikov (4-1). This was sweet revenge for Itauma, as the Russian had beaten him in the 2018 European junior championships. Itauma’s win also took Great Britain’s gold medal tally to three in the Argentine capital.
“British boxing is on a roll at the moment”, Itauma observed. “In the past, we had a week of preparation, but now it’s at least six weeks. That allows bonds to be formed within the team. It all adds up. It’s no longer just an individual process. You know you’re on your own in the ring, but there is a whole team behind you. That helps to improve your overall experience.”
The absence of Cuba, traditionally an Olympic boxing power, led to more variety on the podiums. In all, 19 NOCs had at least one medallist in the 13 categories. Cuba did not take part in the qualifying competition in the USA, which is why its boxers were absent. “It’s a shame they aren’t here”, said Farkhutdinov. “They’ve got some very strong athletes, and we sometimes organise boxing courses together. But we’re not afraid of them.”
In a packed Oceania Pavilion, the local fans were delighted when, in the men’s welterweight final, Argentina’s Brian Agustin Arregui beat Morocco’s Yassine Elouarz, dedicating his win to his daughter, who was in the stands. Argentina also won two bronze medals on the last day of competition, with Mirco Jehiel Cuello in the men’s bantamweight and Oriana Saputo in the women’s lightweight.