By Yuri Karpenko
In Istanbul, the Belarusian defeated Taichi Oka of Japan, Janarbek Kenjeev of Kyrgyzstan, Saman Tahmasebi of Azerbaijan, Neven Zugaj of Croatia and Rami Hietaniemi of Finland before facing Damian Janikowski of Poland in the final. His rival had beaten outstanding athletes such as Turkish Nazmi Avluca and Russian Alan Khugaev but the Belarusian was the favourite. Moreover, Selimov had defeated Janikowski previously.
In the first period, during their stand-up fight, the pair were equally matched. However, in the mat wrestling, the Polish wrestler began to attack harder. Selimov defended well, earning a point, but succumbed to his opponent’s lunge in the second period. The athletes then preserved their strength for the decisive third period, but seemed to play safe, as they had done in the first. When their stand-up time ran out, Janikowski was ahead on points, so was in a position to choose whether to attack or defend.
Janikowski chose defence, which he may have regretted later, although initially everything was working well for him. Alim spent much time trying to find a way through his rival’s defence and it seemed that the athlete from Slask Wroclaw might claim victory. However, two seconds before the end of the fight, Selimov altered his approach, sending Janikowski reeling. The attack gave the Belarusian enough points for the World Championship gold medal — the second of his career (six years after his first, in 2005). Back then, sceptics called Selimov’s victory in Budapest a fluke but his Istanbul victory proves his mastery. He’ll now train hard to worthily represent Belarus at the Olympics in London.
Selimov’s victorious start was continued by Alexey Shemarov (under 120kg), who captured gold for his freestyle wrestling. Additionally, Shemarov — like Selimov — won a place at the 2012 London Olympics (six representatives from each Olympic weight category qualify). Istanbul silver medallist Elbek Tozhiev (55kg) — also won a place, as did Timofey Deinichenko (96kg) — who was placed fifth. Among the women, the only medal and Olympic place for Belarus went to Vasilisa Marzalyuk (under 72kg) — who won bronze.