By Kirill Karin
Belarusian Greco-Roman wrestlers traditionally win more prizes than some of our other fighting athletes; so far, they have 10 Olympic medals to their credit. The first medal was captured by Oleg Karavayev, about 50 years ago. This year, the Minsk event was held under the guidance of the International Amateur Wrestling Federation for the first time and proved bright, dynamic and spectacular. Every athlete appeared on the mat several times and, being a team tournament, it attracted such honourable participants as Russia, the USA, France, Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Poland and Lithuania. Belarus, as host, entered two teams: the first featured our top wrestlers while the second comprised core reservists.
The teams battled in two groups, with the Belarusian squad easily defeating Kazakhstan, Poland, Lithuania and France, to lead. Meanwhile, Georgia beat Russia, Ukraine, the USA and the younger Belarusian squad in the other group. After two final matches, our Belarusian wrestlers were obviously facing a serious threat to claiming the gold. Elbek Tozhiyev (weight category under 55kg) and Maxim Kazharsky (60kg) lost their matches.
In the weight category under 66kg, Belarus was represented by Beijing 2008 Olympic bronze-holder Mikhail Semenov. In a tough fight, he eventually managed to defeat 2010 World Cup bronze medallist Anton Mamageshvili. All three following matches were also won: by Alim Selimov (84kg), Timofey Deinichenko (96kg) and Iosif Chugoshvili (120kg). The opponent of Alexander Kikinev (74kg) decided not to fight, due to injury, allowing the Belarusian squad to celebrate a 5:2 win.
As pointed out by the Chairman of the Belarusian Wrestling Federation, Yuri Chizh, the tournament has been a dress-rehearsal for the World Cup, to be held in Minsk in February 2011. “We’re doing our best to organise all our tournaments in an efficient way, to prepare our athletes for the Olympics in London in 2012. We’ve had an excellent chance to gauge ourselves before the home World Cup,” notes Mr. Chizh.