Russia Relying on Three Olympic Champs for Tokyo Berths  

By Eric Olanowski

BUDAPEST, Hungary (March 11) --- The Russian Federation will rely heavily on Olympic champions Roman VLASOV (RUS), Davit CHAKVETADZE (RUS) and Natalia VOROBEVA (RUS) to earn berths to the Tokyo Olympic Games through next week’s European Olympic Qualifier (March 18-21).  

They’ll need a top-two finish to punch their nation’s ticket to this summer’s Games.

Greco-Roman stars Vlasov and Chakvetadze will compete at 77kg and 87kg, respectively, while Vorobieva will wrestle in arguably the deepest women’s wrestling weight, 76kg.  

Vlasov, already a two-time Olympic champion, is on a mission to become wrestling's fourth Greco-Roman three-time Olympic gold medalist. He’d join a shortlist of three-timers, including fellow Novosibirsk native Aleksandr KARELIN (RUS), along with Mijain LOPEZ (CUB) and Carl WESTERGREN (SWE).

The European Olympic Qualifiers will be Vlasov’s second attempt at earning an Olympic bid. He came up shy of a top-eight finish at the ’19 World Championships. Vlasov dropped his second-round bout to Askhat DILMUKHAMEDOV (KAZ), 3-0, and finished in eighth place.

Since that uncharacteristic loss at the World Championships, "Air Vlasov" returned to his winning ways. He nabbed gold at the Individual World Cup with five wins -- including a one-point victory against fellow world champion and longtime rival, Viktor NEMES (SRB).

Chakvetadze, the Rio Olympic gold medalist, is replacing Russia’s world and European representative Aleksandr KOMAROV (RUS) at 87kg. Komarov needed a top-six finish at the ’19 World Championships to qualify Russia for the Olympics but dropped his second-round match to Rustam ASSAKALOV (UZB) and finished in 11th place. 

Chakvetadze received the nod over Komarov for a second straight completion. His last outing came at the '20 Individual World Cup in late December, where he finished in second place. During his run to the Belgrade finals, the Olympic champion looked in top-shape en route to wins over continental champion Semen NOVIKOV (UKR) and Hossein Ahmad NOURI (IRI) before running into the buzzsaw Kiryl MASKEVICH (BLR).

London gold medalist and Rio silver-medal winner Vorobeva is the reigning world and European champion at the non-Olympic weight of 72kg. She’s moving up to 76kg with hopes of becoming the first non-Japanese woman ever to win a pair of Olympic gold medals. 

Vorobieva is replacing Rio Olympic bronze medalist Ekaterina BUKINA (RUS) at 76kg. Bukina lost to Epp MAE (EST) in the first round at the ’19 World Championships and left Nur-Sultan with a disappointing 17th-place finish.

The Olympic Qualifier will be Vorobeva's first tournament up at the Olympic weight in 14 months. In her last outing at 76kg, she went 3-1 and claimed a Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series bronze medal. Vorobeva tallied her biggest win of the competition in the quarterfinals against '19 world bronze medalist Epp MAEE (EST), 11-2.

Wrestling begins on Thursday, March 18, and can be followed live on www.unitedworldwrestling.org. 


Semenov and Chekhirkin Claim Gold on Final Day of European OG Qualifier

By Eric Olanowski

BUDAPEST, Hungary (January 20) – Russian wrestlers Aleksandr CHEKHIRKIN (RUS) and Sergey SEMENOV (RUS) closed out the final day of the European Olympic Qualifiers with a pair of golds, while Kerem KAMAL (TUR) cruised to his second title of the ’21 season.

Semenov rolled past Lithuania’s Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (LTU) with a pair of second-period side headlocks after he collected an inactivity point. He claimed the 130kg gold, 5-1. Semenov's compatriot and fellow ’18 world champion Chekhirkin also won gold on Sunday night. He was awarded the 77kg gold after his finals opponent Bozo STARCEVIC (CRO) injury defaulted out of the gold-medal match.

Kamal reached the podium for the second time this season (he also won the Henri Deglane) with a four-point victory over Etienne KINSINGER (GER) in the 60kg finals. The match was tied in the opening period when Kamal peddled to the edge of the mat, jarred an underhook in, and tossed the German to his back for four points.

In the second period, Kamal kept his pace high and earned an inactivity point, putting Kingsinger down in par terre. The 21-year-old went for a right-side gut wrench but was stopped mid-way through and conceded a reversal. He stayed poised in the final minute and closed out the match victorious, 5-1.

The final two golds of the evening went to Ramaz ZOIDZE (GEO) and Islam ABBASOV (AZE). They were awarded the 67kg and 87kg golds, respectively, after their finals opponent’s injury defaulted out of the gold-medal matches.

That wraps up our coverage of the European Olympic Qualifier. The event calendar resumes with the African and Oceania Olympic Qualifier April 2-4 in Hammamet, Tunisia.

*Please note that wrestlers who won their semifinal matches at the European Olympic Qualifiers earned berths for their respective nations to the Tokyo Olympic Games. 

GOLD - Kerem KAMAL (TUR) df. Etienne KINSINGER (GER), 5-1
BRONZE - Ivan LIZATOVIC (CRO) df. Murad MAMMADOV (AZE), via injury default
BRONZE - Irakli DZIMISTARISHVILI (GEO) df. Erik TORBA (HUN), via forfeit

GOLD - Ramaz ZOIDZE (GEO) df. Balint KORPASI (HUN), via injury default
BRONZE - Artur POLITAIEV (UKR) df. Slavik GALSTYAN (ARM), via injury default
BRONZE - Deyvid Tihomirov DIMITROV (BUL) df. Donior ISLAMOV (MDA), 9-7

GOLD - Aleksandr CHEKHIRKIN (RUS) df. Bozo STARCEVIC (CRO), via injury default
BRONZE - Viktor NEMES (SRB) df. Aik MNATSAKANIAN (BUL), via injury default

BRONZE - Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) df. Oldrich VARGA (CZE), via injury default

GOLD - Islam ABBASOV (AZE) df. Lasha GOBADZE (GEO), via injury default
BRONZE -Metehan BASAR (TUR) df. Milad Valerikovitch ALIRZAEV (RUS), via injury default

GOLD - Arvi Martin SAVOLAINEN (FIN) df. Kiril MILOV (BUL), via injury default
BRONZE - Alex Gergo SZOKE (HUN) df. Artur OMAROV (CZE)

BRONZE - Pontus Johan LUND (SWE) df. Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (ITA)

GOLD - Sergey SEMENOV (RUS) df. Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (LTU), 5-1
BRONZE - Adam VARGA (HUN) df. Radoslav Plamenov GEORGIEV (BUL), 3-1

BRONZE - Rafal Andrzej KRAJEWSKI (POL) df. Marko KOSCEVIC (CRO), 11-5