Vladimer Khinchegashvili of Georgia and Hassan Aliazam Yazdanichaarati of Iran both recovered from deficits to win respective first Olympic titles in the men’s freestyle -57kg and -74kg wrestling events at Rio 2016 on 19 August.
World champion Khinchegashvili edged young Japanese sensation Rei Higuchi to claim gold in the lighter of the two categories. The 20-year-old world No10 had the Georgian on the back foot early in the final, moving into a 3-0 lead. Showing his reserves of willpower, Khinchegashvili clawed back the deficit for a 4-3 victory to improve on his silver from London 2012.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” said the Georgian. “My dream just came true.” Showing his admiration for his final opponent, he added: “He’s a very strong guy, I’m sure in the future he will win many other titles. I have a lot of respect for him. It wasn’t a surprise to face him in the final because he beat such high level opponents.”
“I did my best, but the Georgian athlete was better at guarding and I have less power than him,” said a resigned Higuchi, who can nevertheless take a lot of pride from his surprise run to silver. Two-time world champion Haji Aliyev of Azerbaijan lost to the eventual gold medallist in the quarter-finals, but was able to regroup and win two repechage matches to claim bronze, while 2013 world champion Hassan Rahimi of Iran got the better of Yowlys Bonne of Cuba to win the other bronze on offer.
Just in time for Yazdanichaarati
Yazdanichaarati won his -74kg gold after a thrilling final against Russia’s Aniuar Geduev. Trailing 6-0 at one stage, the Iranian fought back and pulled level with only eight seconds remaining, earning a takedown that gave him the title on account of it being the last score of the bout.
His victory brought Iran its first gold medal in a freestyle event since Ali Reza Dabir won the men’s -60kg crown at Sydney 2000. “I thank God for being here,” said the new champion. “It was really hard. I had to pass a lot of hurdles to be here. I just can thank God for what I’ve achieved.”
Geduev caused the upset of the day by eliminating world and Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs of the USA in the quarter-finals, with the American wrestler then losing his repechage match and failing to contest the bronze-medal bouts. Prevailing in those were Jabrayil Hasanov of Azerbaijan, who beat Uzbekistan’s Bekzod Abdurakhmonov 8-7, and European champion Soner Demeritas of Turkey, a 6-0 victor over Galymzhan Usserbayev of Kazakhstan.