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Russia rule but Iran are catching - London 2012 - Wrestling


Russia may have been kings of the mat again at London 2012, but if the wrestling competition proved anything, it was that Iran are catching up.

Despite being one of the powerhouses of wrestling, Iran went into London 2012 on the back of a poor run of just two golds in their last three Olympic Games.

However, Hamid Soryan won the -55kg division to take the first Wrestling gold of the Games and from then on, the Iranian Greco-Roman wrestlers never looked back.

Omid Noroozi won the -60kg the following day and by Tuesday the Iranian national anthem boomed out in the wrestling hall for a third time after Ghasem Rezaei won the heavyweight division.

Rezaei said Iran's success - they also won one silver and two bronze - did not come as a surprise.

'We expected this after the World Championships in Turkey,' he said. 'Everyone was certain then that we would achieve the best we can in London.

'All the athletes were expecting to do well because of all the hard work of the coaches. They built us all well physically.

'They understood the athletes as well as pushing them hard towards achieving their best.'

Russia's dominance was never really in doubt. The competition is so fierce in the country that any member of the team is considered a good shot for an Olympic medal.

They still had to deliver on the mat, however, and they did so with style, winning four golds, two silvers and five bronze.

Perhaps the most impressive performers in the team was Natalia Vorobieva, who pinned five-time world champion Stanka Zlateva Hristova to take gold in the -72kg division.

The Americans also left the hall with their heads held high after doubling their gold tally from Beijing 2008, with Jordan Burroughs and Jake Varner topping the podium in the -74kg and -96kg Freestyle.

Azerbaijan also enjoyed a fruitful Games, winning two golds, while Japan continued to dominate the women's Freestyle, winning three of the four golds on offer.

One team who went home not so happy were the Egyptians. On the final day of competition, two members of their team were disqualified after they turned up half an hour after competition had begun at ExCeL.

After four years of gruelling training, Saleh Emara and Abdou Omar Abdou Ahmed forfeited their place in the tournament after Egyptian officials forget that qualifying started at 0830, rather than at 1300.

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