Fate’s zigzags and Olympic carpet

Belarusian freestyle wrestler Ibragim Saidov wins Games bronze, in 125kg category

Belarusian freestyle wrestler Ibragim Saidov wins Games bronze, in 125kg category

Ibragim Saidov with Olympic bronze
Belarus’ Ibragim Saidov fought against Armenia’s Levan Berianidze in the lesser finals. In their ‘viscous’ struggle, few moves were evident which brought points, although the Armenian athlete gained the first point, winning the starting round. The pattern continued for most of the match, through until Saidov lulled his rival into a false sense of calm, and used a sleight to score two points. The threat of losing the match made Berianidze concentrate, but the Belarusian successfully met his attacks. Less than a minute before the end of the fight, the Armenian managed to equalise, ousting Saidov from the carpet. However, by additional parameters, Saidov was awarded bronze.

Saidov has been fighting for Belarus for less than a year, but became the Russian champion in 2010, beating strong Khadzhimurat Gatsalov. However, the later still went to the world championship, as Russia’s wrestling laws are severe, with decisions made not only on the carpet. Saidov decided to then fight for the Belarusian national team. On winning an Olympic medal, he placed his hand on his chest and asked to pass his honest ‘thank you’ to all Belarusians and the country. Fate’s zigzags unexpectedly brought Saidov to the Olympic carpet, and he made excellent use of his chance. Good job!

In Rio, Saidov first easily beat Kazakhstan’s Daulet Shabanbay, and then faced Turkey’s Taha Akgül, who has been dominating this category for the past two years, claiming all gold medals from world and European championships. Belarusian wrestling fans may remember him having taken part in the Alexander Medved tournament in Minsk in 2011. He didn’t win, but it was clear that a grand master was being raised.

Today, experts say that Akgül is a contemporary prototype of our Alexander Medved, who occupied the throne for a long time. Tall, slender, adroit and self-confident, he resembles Medved strongly. Beating the robust Iranian in the final, Akgül won his first Olympic gold medal. Whether he’ll win a second is under question; all lofty words are speculative.

Saidov was completely defeated by the Turkish sportsman in the quarterfinals, but that was a tactical move.

“It’s a sporting trick,” Ibragim noted, following his victorious fight. Smiling, he added, “I was cautious about my injured elbow. Also, a month ago, during training, I strained the back of my thigh, having to fight with painkilling injections. Losing all my strength in the fight against the Turkish athlete and aggravating my injuries would have been irrational. Therefore, my coach and I decided to sacrifice that match and concentrate on the fight for bronze.”

His rival in the lesser finals, Georgian Levan Berianidze, who performed under the Armenian flag, was about 1.5 times bigger than our Ibragim. Therefore, he had no chance without tactics.

“Ibragim performed brilliantly, over-performed in all the tactical objectives set for the ‘bronze’ fight,” said the chief coach for our freestyle wrestlers, Alexander Lasitsa. “He usually performs in the 97kg category, but jumped into the last carriage of the Olympic train and won an award in the 125kg category: a heroic deed!”

Ibragim is smart and thoughtful in his wrestling, calculating carefully, to attack unexpectedly. Saidov dedicated his medal to his father, who died two years ago. He wasn’t a wrestler himself, but, as any Dagestani, he admired the sport and dreamt of his son becoming a champion. Ibragim did well at his studies, necessitating a choice between sports and science. His father insisted on sports. It was destiny!

By Andrey Volokhov
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