#TBT: Sadulaev Makes Golden Debut at '12 Cadet Worlds

By Vinay Siwach

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (January 20) – Over the years, Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RWF) has become one of the biggest names in wrestling. A five-time world and two-time Olympic champion Sadulaev has captured every possible title on offer at the senior level.

But it all began a decade back in Baku, Azerbaijan when a young Sadulaev claimed his first gold at the 2012 Cadet World Championships. The then 16-year-old won his four matches -- two via fall and two via points. Incidentally, it was his international debut as well. 

Wrestling in the 76kg weight class, Sadulaev scripted a remarkable comeback to beat Ruslan RUCHKO (UKR) by winning two periods in a best-of-three according to old rules. Despite losing the first and trailing in the second period, the Russian emerged victorious and with some ease.

Ruchko began with a big whip over in the first period and scored three points for the move in the first minute. Sadulaev managed a takedown for one point but failed to get any rolls as the period ended in the favor of the Ukrainian.

In the second period, Sadulaev was attempting a double-leg when Ruchko exposed him and scored three more points. Sadulaev got two points and while attempting a gut wrench, Ruchko held him to pin but Sadulaev survived. That gave two more points to Ruchko and a 5-2 lead. But Sadulaev finally completed a double leg and scored three points to level it 5-5. Just when it looked like the second period will end in a draw, Sadulaev scored a point via takedown with 12 seconds left to claim the second period.

While he tried his best, Ruchko could not match the pace and strength of Sadulaev in the final period and gave up a stepout. Sadulaev scored three more with a double-leg attack to lead 4-0. One more point was added for a lost challenge. A tiring Ruchko managed to score only a point as Sadulaev ran towards victory.

Sadulaev, in his trademark calmness, won his first cadet world title and announced himself on the international stage. Since then, he has moved up three weight classes and won one more cadet world title, five senior world titles and two Olympic gold medals.

The 26-year-old's first World Championships gold medal at the senior level came at the 2014 Worlds in Tashkent, Uzbekistan before he defended his 86kg title at the 2015 World Championships in Las Vegas, USA. He won his first Olympics in Rio 2016.

At the 2017 World Championships, he suffered his first loss at the Worlds, losing 5-6 to Kyle SNYDER (USA) in the 97kg final. But he avenged his loss at the 2018 World Championships final in Budapest, Hungary, by pinning Snyder in the 97kg final.

In 2019, he won the gold again in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan before defeating Snyder again in the final of the Tokyo Games to claim his second Olympic gold medal. The two met again two months later at the Oslo World Championships and Sadulaev once again humbled Snyder to win his fifth world title, a rare occurrence for a wrestler to win the Olympic and Worlds gold in the same year.


#TBT: Tynybekova grabs historic gold for Kyrgyzstan

By Eric Olanowski

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan (July 21) --- Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ) earned a place in Kyrgyzstan's sporting history as the first wrestler to win a senior world title when she captured the women’s 62kg gold medal with a 5-3 victory over defending champion Taybe YUSEIN (BUL) at the 2019 World Championships.

“When I started wrestling, it was just a dream for me to become world champion,” the then-26-year-old Tynybekova said. “But today, the dream came true.”

Since Kyrgyzstan made its debut at the world championships in 1994, the former Soviet republic had won nine medals---including Tynybekova’s bronze in 2017---but no one had made it to the top of the podium.

Until that Friday night at the Barys Arena in the capital of neighboring Kazakhstan, where a large contingent of compatriots had made the trip and were witness to this moment of national glory.

“Last year, I couldn’t participate in the world championships [in Budapest] because of an injury,” said Tynybekova, who returned to action to win the gold at the Asian Championships in April.

“It was a serious injury and I missed six months of training. At that time, it was hard watching [the World Championships] because I wanted to be there so badly.”

In the final, Tynybekova gave up a point on the activity clock, then scored a takedown to lead 2-1 going into the second period. She added a stepout point, but fell behind 3-3 on criteria when Yusein scored 2 with a stepover with a minute to go.

“It was important for me to control the match from the first second to the last,” Tynybekova said. “That was the strategy of my coach. When the score was 3-3 and there was just 40 seconds, I didn’t panic. I knew I could score 2 points more.”

Indeed she did, tackling the Bulgarian to her back with about 10 seconds to go to secure the historic victory.

“Everyone on my team, my coach and the federation believed in me, and that gave me the power to win,” Tynybekova said.

Tynybekova was a relative late-comer to the sport, only taking it up when she was in her mid-teens. She explained that the countryside where she grew up did not have wrestling clubs. When she became aware of women’s wrestling, she knew that was the sport for her, and made a drastic life decision.

“I was 16 when I started wrestling,” she said. “Before that, I tried many kinds of sports. I was always searching for something interesting.…When I heard there was women’s wrestling in the capital [Bishkek], I gathered all my clothes and moved there.”

Along with the gold medal, Tynybekova also clinched a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The top six finishers in each of the Olympic weight classes secure berths for their countries. But that was never the main objective.

“My coach said to me that Olympic qualifying is not the main thing,” Tynybekova said. “He was confident I could get the Olympic license. “He said I have to make history for Kyrgyzstan. It’s not only my victory. It’s a victory of my team, of my country. This medal is not only from my effort. Many people contributed.”