Posted: 23.05.2024 15:35:33

They fought and got it

Ten Belarusian wrestlers have secured tickets to the Paris 2024 Olympics amid uncertainty over whether they will be allowed to compete at the Games

In terms of the total number of Olympic medals won during the sovereign times, the Belarusian national wrestling team is second only to representatives of diverse and multifaceted track and field athletics. The courtiers of the queen of sports managed to clinch 15 awards at seven Olympic Games, while turnover and suplex masters secured 14 awards. True, Belarusian wrestlers have not won a single gold medal so far; therefore, the vacancy of the main hero remains open. Taking into account the fact that Belarusian track and field athletes have no opportunity to demonstrate their skills and contend for medals at the Paris 2024 Olympics since World Athletics has taken one of the most irreconcilable positions among all international federations and refused flatly to allow Belarusian track and field athletes to participate in any world or European competitions, and the wrestlers are planning to head to the banks of the Seine river with a pretty impressive composition, the medal balance may swing in their direction in the very near future. 

Belarusian wrestler Kiryl Maskevich is the happy owner of the Olympic licence 

Hard-to-get tickets

The journey to Paris is going to be nothing less than offbeat, not only from the point of view of logistics but also in terms of other aspects. How, when and through which hubs Belarusian athletes will get to the Olympic capital will have to be decided as the action progresses. It is important to figure out the main thing — who will actually go to compete at the once major four-year starts, which have now turned from a bright sports festival into a buffoonish political farce? Winning an Olympic licence for Belarusians under the conditions where practically nothing is allowed, the national flag and anthem are banned, there is no opportunity to carefully plan a training and competitive process, nerves are stretched to the breaking point, and confusion reigns in the head is half the battle. There is still a bewildering International Olympic Committee (IOC), which will personally analyse the dossier of each Belarusian Olympic contender and deliver its verdict. That means that IOC officials can literally pull any Belarusian athlete off the tram to Paris even if they have secured a coveted ticket, without explaining the reason. So far the situation is like this. 
In wrestling, Belarus has as many as 10 licences — four in freestyle, three in women’s wrestling and in Greco-Roman style each. In weightlifting, our athletes have clinched four quotas; in canoeing and kayaking, and in swimming — three each; in rowing and trampolining — two each; in taekwondo, shooting and cycling — one each. As for wrestling, the secured number of quotas is not a record one, there used to be more. Thus, in the first ever 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Belarus was represented by the national wrestling team of 15 athletes. By the way, the richest medal harvest so far was collected there — four awards! In Sydney, 14 Belarusian wrestlers stepped on the carpet, in Athens — 10. It is in 2004 that women’s wrestling was introduced to the Olympic programme, where the only Belarusian freestyle wrestler, Olga Khilko, took 6th place. Nine of our wrestlers fought for medals in Beijing, 11 — in London, eight — in Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.

Paris is not for tourists

The Olympic guiding principle stating that it is not about winning but about taking part is not relevant today. As Belarus’ President stressed, “Those who have qualified and are going to the Olympics in a neutral status must show their mettle and outperform their opponents.” According to the current time, one needs to bend every effort in order to snatch their piece of the cake. Therefore, everyone who goes to compete at the Paris Olympics should be deeply aware — their goal is not to take a tour of the Eiffel Tower but to win a medal. The Belarusian national wrestling team obviously has no tourists and everyone is capable of achieving a lot. A Tokyo silver medalist, freestyle wrestler Magomedkhabib Kadimagomedov is going to Paris for revenge — he is only interested in the championship title. Aryan Tsiutryn, a brisk, small, but very angry wrestler from Yakutia who chose our country as his sporting homeland, dreams of a medal. Belarusian heavyweight wrestlers Aliaksandr Hushtyn and Dzianis Khramiankou will undoubtedly fight for Olympic medals with all their might. The same refers to our unparalleled medalists of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Iryna Kurachkina and Vanesa Kaladzinskaya — they are virtually capable of stopping a galloping horse and entering the burning hut. Veranika Ivanova is not so titled yet but she is definitely not the timid type, either. 

Iryna Kurachkina (above) and Magomedkhabib Kadimagomedov (below) are preparing to ‘melt’ their Tokyo silver into Paris gold  Kadir Caliskan


Onward and upward! 

A very promising trio in terms of results is preparing to storm Paris in Greco-Roman wrestling. The most experienced is Kiryl Maskevich, 26 years old. He is the World Cup winner, the winner of the world and European championships, an incredibly technical and explosive wrestler. Pavel Glinchuk is 23, and he is still a junior by the wrestling standards. He is known as a fast, gifted and very persistent wrestler. By the way, Glinchuk performs in the super heavyweight category, although he clearly falls short of it in terms of kilogrammes. This may actually be a plus for him as he compensates for the lack of power with excellent manoeuvrability and dexterity. In the decisive battle for the right to be in Paris at the recent European qualification, Glinchuk defeated 39-year-old Estonian Heiki Nabi, who became world champion in 2006, at the time when our Pavel was a child. Abubakar Khaslakhanau, the Belarusian 20-year-old star and an incredible talent, deserves a special mention. His main gift is the ability to work hard, although God also endowed the guy with great physical abilities. Therefore, onward and upward!   

Belarusian wrestlers in Olympic standings

Atlanta 1996 — 4 medals: Sergey Lishtvan, Aleksandr Pavlov (Greco-Roman), Aleksey Medvedev (freestyle) — silver; Valery Tsilent (Greco-Roman) — bronze.  
Sydney 2000 — 1 medal: Dmitry Debelka (Greco-Roman) — bronze.
Athens 2004 — 1 medal: Viachaslau Makaranka (Greco-Roman) – bronze.
Beijing 2008 — 2 medals: Murad Gaidarov (freestyle) — silver; Mikhail Semyonov (Greco-Roman) — bronze.  
London 2012 — 0 medals: five athletes competed for bronze but all of them lost to their rivals. 
Rio de Janeiro 2016 — 3 medals: Maryia Mamashuk (women’s) — silver; Javid Hamzatau (Greco-Roman) — bronze; Ibragim Saidov (freestyle) — bronze.
Tokyo 2020 — 3 medals: Iryna Kurachkina (women’s) — silver; Magomedkhabib Kadimagomedov (freestyle) — silver; Vanesa Kaladzinskaya (women’s) — bronze.

By Sergei Kanashits