Wed, Aug 08, 2012 - Page 19 News List

London 2012 Olympics: Cuba’s Mijain Lopez retains his wrestling title


Cuba’s Mijain Lopez, bottom, wrestles with Egypt’s Abdelrahman Eltrabily in the men’s under-120kg Greco-Roman wrestling at the Excel Centre in London on Monday.

Photo: Reuters

After a redemptive win over Turkish rival Riza Kayaalp in the semi-finals, Cuba’s Mijain Lopez said that he did not think anyone else could touch him.

Lopez was not bragging. Nobody was getting in the way of his second straight Olympic gold medal.

Lopez took down Heiki Nabi of Estonia 2-0, 1-0 to win gold in the Greco-Roman under-120kg category on Monday night in London.

Lopez is the third wrestler to win multiple golds at 120kg, joining Russian legend Alexandre Karelin and Alexander Koltschinkski of the former Soviet Union.

Asked if he would be back for the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016, Lopez was noncommittal, but Monday’s performance solidified his status as one of the greatest Greco-Roman heavyweights of all time.

“I mean I am 30 already. I have three Olympics behind me. It is going to be a little bit more difficult, but life goes on,” Lopez said.

Omid Noroozi of Iran won the gold medal in under-60kg category, while Alan Khugaev of Russia took the gold in the men’s under-84kg.

However, the most highly anticipated match of the day was between Lopez and Kayaalp.

Many in the wrestling world were stunned last year when Kayaalp beat the formidable Lopez — who had won world titles in 2005 and 2007, took the Olympic gold in 2008 and then the next two world championships — at the world championships in Istanbul, Turkey.

Lopez restored order to the heavyweight division he has dominated for years.

Lopez scored a pair of late points while on offense to win the first period and set the tone. The second period also went to the par terre tiebreaker position, this time with Lopez on the bottom and forced to keep Kayaalp from scoring.

Kayaalp flailed wildly as he tried to pick Lopez off the mat, but nothing he did worked.

The match with Nabi went almost exactly the same way.

Lopez scored two points with what’s known as a gut wrench — which is to grab an opponent’s stomach and wrench them over — and Nabi could not get Cuba’s star heavyweight on the ground in the next period, either.

“I think it was a really good fight,” Lopez said.

Noroozi, the defending world champion, beat Georgia’s Revaz Lashkhi 1-0, 1-0 to give Iran their second Greco-Roman medal in as many days. Hamid Soryan won the country’s first gold on Sunday.

Noroozi beat Kazakhstan’s Almat Kebispayev in a rematch of last year’s world championship final, then took out Lashkhi for his first gold medal.

“It’s very good for Iran, especially how the national anthem went out in a prominent way. That everyone around the world can hear the national anthem. Everyone in Iran will be very happy,” Noroozi said.

Khugaev beat former Olympic champion Karam Mohamed Gaber Ebrahim of Egypt 1-0, 2-0 to become Russia’s second Greco-Roman winner in London.

The 23-year-old Khugaev beat Georgia’s Vladimer Gegeshidze in the semi-finals, then took out Ebrahim to join 21-year-old teammate Roman Vlasov as gold-medal winners.

“We have a very good future for Russia. We have brilliant coaches that can train very good athletes,” Khugaev said.

Ebrahim won gold in Athens in 2004 in the under-96kg category.

Eight years later and 12kg lighter, he came up just one win shy of completing a remarkable comeback.

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