Uzbekistan’s Artur Taymazov said he had been prepared to die in his ultimately successful bid for a third consecutive Olympic heavyweight freestyle wrestling gold medal.
The 33-year-old, also the runner-up at the 2000 Games, completed a hat-trick of Olympic titles with a dominating 3-0 defeat of Georgia’s Davit Modzmanashvili in the 120kg final at London’s Excel Centre on Saturday.
“I came on the mat with a decision: I win here or I die here,” Taymazov said. “He was a very strong opponent.”
Taymazov, asked how it felt to set a new Olympic freestyle record of three golds and one silver, replied: “To be honest, it hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Greco-Roman great Alexander Karelin of Russia is the only other wrestler in either style with three gold medals and a silver at the Olympics. Silver, though, was no consolation for Modzmanashvili.
“I don’t know what to say ... I wanted a gold medal,” the Georgian said.
Taymazov began his London campaign with 3-0 wins over Germany’s Nick Matuhin and Iran’s Komeil Ghasemi, and in the semi-final Taymazov was too strong for Tervel Dlagnev of the US after the Bulgarian-born American beat world champion Aleksei Shemarov of Belarus in the quarter-finals.
Ghasemi and Russia’s Bilyal Makhov took the bronze medals.
Saturday’s penultimate day of freestyle wrestling action also saw an Azerbaijan double, with Sharif Sharifov (84kg) and Toghrul Asgarov (60kg) winning the other two gold medals on offer.
Sharifov, the reigning world champion, sealed gold with a convincing win over Jaime Espinal, the first Puerto Rican to reach a Games wrestling final.
An elated Sharifov paid tribute to Espinal.
“I was surprised by him. This is the Olympic Games. The opponents here are all serious,” he said.
“I came to give all I have inside my heart and I’ve done that. That’s why I’m celebrating my silver medal. I have the surprise factor,” Espinal said.
Georgia’s Dato Marsagishvili and Iran’s Ehsan Lashgari won the bronze.
In the 60kg final, Asgarov upset the form book as this year’s European champion and last year’s world junior title winner defeated the reigning world champion, Besik Kudukhov of Russia.
“I’m so glad,” Asgarov said. “I put everything into being Olympic champion.”
Meanwhile, there was no silver lining for Beijing bronze medalist Kudukhov.
“No, that was no step forward,” he said. “The gold medal would have been a step forward.”
The bronze medals went to Coleman Scott of the US and India’s Yogeshwar Dutt, the Asian champion, who came through the repechage after a loss to Kudukhov in the early rounds.
“My group was very tough and I had to fight with the world champion,” Dutt said.
“I was very down after I lost in the morning, but when I got the chance to compete in the repechage, the whole country wanted a medal from me. I didn’t want to lose this occasion,” he said.