Lopez announces comeback, eyes historic fifth Olympic gold
Thursday, May 25, 2023 - 11:02 By Eric Olanowski
POREC, Croatia (May 23) -- The rumors are in the rearview and it’s official.
Mijain LOPEZ (CUB), the Beijing, London, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo Olympic champion, officially announced his return to wrestling to chase a record-setting fifth Olympic gold medal.
The Cuban superheavy is widely regarded as the Greatest of all Time, but he’s not interested in sharing a page in the history books with anyone else. He wants all the glory for himself.
"I’m coming back to wrestle at the Paris Olympic Games. I want to become the first wrestler to win five Olympic gold medals,” Lopez told United World Wrestling on Monday night.
Lopez, flanked by fellow Tokyo Olympic champions Luis ORTA (CUB) and Zhan BELENIUK (UKR), made the announcement from the international training camp in Poreč, Croatia, where he’s beginning his Paris preparations.
Lopez, who’ll be 41 years old this August, hung up his wrestling boots shortly after he won his fourth Olympic gold medal. But “The Kid” has since rekindled his desire to stand alone in wrestling history. He’s currently tied with Kaori ICHO (JPN) (who officially retired in 2020) as the only pair of wrestlers to win four Olympic titles.
A win for Lopez in Paris would also move him into the top spot as wrestling’s oldest Olympic champion -- dethroning Adolf LINDFORS (FIN) (41 years 6 months 12 days), Arsen MEKOKISHVILI (URS) (40 years 3 months 11 days) and Icho (32 years 2 months 4 days) --who hold the Greco-Roman, freestyle and women’s wrestling records, respectively.
The Cuban Giant will wrestle on August 6 at the 2024 Olympic Games and will be two weeks shy of his 42nd birthday, which would beat Lindfors’ record by nearly six months.
Lopez’s attention now turns to getting his massive body back down to the Olympic weight of 130kg/286 lbs.
“Right now, he has to focus on getting his weight under control, but I don’t think that’ll be a problem,” a source close to Lopez said. “He currently weighs 145kg/319 lbs. That seems like a big weight cut, but his body was in the same position heading into the Tokyo Olympics and he outscored everyone 24-0.”
For the time being, as Lopez gets his weight under control, Oscar PINO (CUB) will remain Cuba’s 130kg Greco-Roman starter.
Pino will compete at the 2023 World Championships, where he’ll have to qualify Cuba for the 2024 Olympic Games -- similar to the 2019 World Championships where he qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games with his runner-up finish. He’ll again relinquish his spot and take a seat on the bench as Lopez chases Olympic history.
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