Olympic Games, World Medalists Lift Level of European OG Qualifier
Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - 01:36 By William May
ZRENJANIN, Serbia (April 13) – A total of 216 berths for the wrestling competition at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games have been assigned to 51 countries as Zrenjanin prepares to host the final continental qualifying tourney, April 15-17, in Serbia.
Another 36 tickets to Rio 2016 will be up for grabs in north central Serbia this weekend as some 500 or more wrestlers, coaches and officials descend upon the city for three days of competition in wrestling’s three Olympic styles.
Entries include some highly decorated veterans like world and Olympic Games champion Aleksei MISHIN (RUS) as well as number of young hopefuls, such as 19-year-old Grace BULLEN (NOR), who aspire to their own Olympic glory.
Along with Mishin, the field in Greco-Roman includes London 2012 silver medalists Revaz LASHKHI (GEO), Tamas LORINCZ (HUN) and Heiki NABI (EST) along with Beijing 2008 bronze medalists Roman AMOYAN (ARM), Armen VARDANYAN (UKR) and Mindaugas MIZGAITIS (LTU).
A pair of London 2012 bronze medalists Damian JANIKOWSKI (POL) and Aleksandr KAZAKEVIC (LTU) as well as 2014 world champion Melonin NOUMONVI (FRA) join Mishin at middleweight, making 85kg potentially one of the most challenging categories of the entire tourney.
In the women’s events, Beijing 2008 bronze medalist Agnieszka WIESZCZEK-KORDUS (POL) along with London 2012 bronze medal winners Yulia RATKEVICH (AZE) and Maider UNDA (ESP) stand out in a field of world and European medalists. Unda will be seeking her third trip to the Olympic Games.
In addition to Ratkevich, Marianna SASTIN (HUN) and Alina MAKHINYA (UKR) come to Zrenjanin as former world champions, while Oksana HERHEL (UKR) won the world title at the non-Olympic weight category of 60kg in Las Vegas but is entered at 58kg.
As entries continue to trickle in, London 2012 bronze medalist Gabor HATOS (HUN) appears to be the only Olympic Games medalist entered in freestyle while David SAFARYAN (ARM) and Ibragim ALDATOV (UKR) come in as former world champions.
Thumbnail sketches of each day’s action:
Friday, April 15 - FW 48 & 53kg, FS 57 & 65kg, GR 59 & 66kg
David SAFARYAN (ARM) looks to rekindle the magic that lifted him to a world title in 2013 while European Games silver medalist Magomedmurad GADZHIEV (POL) and bronze medalist Azamat NURIKOV (BLR) drop to 65kg to challenge.
World bronze medalists at 61kg, Vladimir DUBOV (BUL) and Vasyl SHUPTAR (UKR) try to make the drop to 57kg to battle for the billeting in Rio.
Amoyan and Lashkhi top 59kg, along with Ivan Poddubny winner Ibragim LABAZANOV (RUS), while London 2012 silver medalist Tamas LORINCZ (HUN) mines for gold at 66kg in Greco-Roman. Azerbaijan sends out 2010 world champ Hasan ALIYEV (AZE) to grab at the lightweight license.
Veterans Maryna MARKEVICH (BLR) and Iwona MATKOWSKA (POL) are the top flyweights but European Games silver medalist Elitsa YANKOVA (BUL) wants her say. European champ Irina OLOGONOVA (RUS) drops to 53kg to take on European Games runner-up Katarzyna KRAWCZYK (POL).
Saturday, April 16 – FW 58 & 63kg, FS 74 & 86kg, GR 75 & 85kg
European championship finalists in Riga Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR) and Jabrayil HASANOV (AZE) head up the field at 74kg. Aldatov seeks a third trip to the Olympic Games, and his 2013 world title and bronze medal in Riga at 32 show he remains competitive.
Another pair of Riga finalists, Zarubi DATUNASHVILI (GEO) and Viktor NEMES (SRB), are the welterweight favorites in Greco-Roman, while world champion at 80kg Selcuk CEBI (TUR) is alternate to 2013 world bronze medalist Emrah KUS (TUR).
Mishin is the biggest star in the middleweight galaxy as he tries to qualify Russia for 85kg – one of two Rio slots left open by the Russian men in Las Vegas. He faces 2014 world champion Noumonvi and resurgent London 2012 bronze medalist Janikowski.
Armchair analysts might say former world bronze medalists Anastasiya HUCHOK (BLR) and Emese BARKA (HUN) will win at 58kg, but a trio of young world champions – Grace BULLEN (NOR), Lyubov OVCHAROVA (RUS), Oksana HERHEL (UKR) – are eager to prove the experts wrong.
Former world champions Ratkevich and Sastin cast long shadows over 63kg, but newly crowned European champion Mariya MAMASHUK (BLR) and Yarygin Grand Prix winner Inna TRAZHUKOVA (RUS) will challenge.
Sunday, April 17 – FW 69 & 75kg, FS 97 & 125kg, GR 98 & 130kg
Riga silver medalist Ivan YANKOUSKI (BLR) and bronze medalist Erik THIELE (GER) head up a balanced field at 97kg where anything can happen. At 125kg, European runner-up Robert BARAN (POL) will duel with bronze medalists Alen ZASEEV (UKR) and Aleksey NIKOLAEV (BLR) for the two super heavyweight ducats.
World bronze medalists Shalva GADABADZE (AZE) and Cenk ILDEM (TUR) appear to be the pick of the field at 98kg in Greco-Roman along with Riga bronze medal winner Aleksander HRABOVIK (BLR).
Two-time world champion and London 2012 silver medalist Nabi has a knack to win when it counts and Iosif CHUGOSHVILI (BLR) has bronze medals at 130kg in the last two continental meets. Iakobi KAJAIA (GEO) has won the recent under-23 meeting in Bulgaria.
Ilana KRATYSH (ISR) has been runner-up in Europe the last four years, but a second place in the qualifier would mean a license to wrestle in Rio. However, she will have to overcome 2013 world champion Makhinya and/or Wieszczek-Kordus.
Yasemin ADAR (TUR) won her first European title in Riga at 75kg, but will have to get by Unda, 2011 world silver medalist Ekaterina BUKINA (RUS) or Riga bronze medalist Alla CHERKASOVA (UKR).
Thursday, April 14
17:00-18:30 – Medical Examination & Weigh-in: Women’s Wrestling 48 & 53kg, Freestyle 57 & 65kg, Greco-Roman 59 & 66kg
Friday, April 15
9:30-14:00 – Qualification rounds & Repechage: Women’s Wrestling 48 & 53kg, Freestyle 57 & 65kg, Greco-Roman 59 & 66kg
17:00-18:30 - Medical Examination & Weigh-in: Women’s Wrestling 58 & 63kg, Freestyle 74 & 86kg, Greco-Roman 75 & 85kg
18:30-19:00 – Opening Ceremony
19:00-21:00 – Finals and Awards Ceremonies: Women’s Wrestling 48 & 53kg, Freestyle 57 & 65kg, Greco-Roman 59 & 66kg
Saturday, April 16
9:30-14:00 – Qualification rounds & Repechage: Women’s Wrestling 58 & 63kg, Freestyle 74 & 86kg, Greco-Roman 75 & 85kg
17:00-18:30 - Medical Examination & Weigh-in: Women’s Wrestling 69 & 75kg, Freestyle 97 & 125kg, Greco-Roman 98 & 130kg
19:00-21:00 – Finals and Awards Ceremonies: Women’s Wrestling 58 & 63kg, Freestyle 74 & 86kg, Greco-Roman 75 & 85kg
Sunday, April 17
9:30-14:00 – Qualification rounds & Repechage: Women’s Wrestling 69 & 75kg, Freestyle 97 & 125kg, Greco-Roman 98 & 130kg
19:00-21:00 – Finals and Awards Ceremonies: Women’s Wrestling 69 & 75kg, Freestyle 97 & 125kg, Greco-Roman 98 & 130kg