Russia Relying on Three Olympic Champs for Tokyo Berths
Thursday, March 11, 2021 - 21:12 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.