Lopez joins the great Karelin

Lopez joins the great Karelin

Cuban wins third consecutive gold to equal Russian's record

Lopez joins the great Karelin

Greco-Roman wrestling took on some Cuban flair on Monday, as Mijain Lopez won his third consecutive Olympic gold, equalling the record set by Russia's legendary grappler Aleksandr Karelin.

Lopez celebrated by doing a salsa-infused, hip-shimmy dance in the middle of the mat, sending the strong Cuban fan base and an arena full of Brazilians into ecstasy. "The dance just came natural to me," Lopez said moments after his match. "Brazil is Brazil, and in Brazil you have to dance!"

Lopez took the gold in a dominating 6-0 win over reigning world champion Riza Kayaalp of Turkey to match Karelin's feat - the Russian won golds at the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Games.

"I'm so proud of reaching the same level of the great Karelin, this is just a tremendous honour," said Lopez, 33. "It's so beautiful to equal that." Asked who could present a challenge to him now, Lopez said that "my only competition now is against (Karelin's) legend."

Lopez won golds at his 130kg category in Beijing and London. He has also won five world championships and three silver world medals, cementing his status as a sporting legend in Cuba.

At last year's world championships in Las Vegas, Lopez lost to Kayaalp 1-0, and most thought Sunday's bout would be equally tight. But Lopez came out aggressively, and essentially won the match in the first 30 seconds after securing a chest-lock and flipping the Turkish wrestler on his back to earn a quick 4 points.

He added another step-out point in the scramble that followed the impressive throw, then earned a final penalty point in the second period as the frustrated Kayaalp slapped him. In the only other category competing on Monday, Russia's Davit Chakvetadze took the gold in the 85kg class.

He was losing 2-0 after the first period, but then put on a dominating display to win 9-2 over the current world champion Zhan Belenyuk of Ukraine. "I pulled myself together, focused and finished the match," Chakvetadze said. "I switched myself on. Russia and me needed the victory."

Hardeep loses
India’s Greco Roman wrestler Hardeep Singh lost his opening round bout in the 98kg category by technical points to Turkey’s Ildem Cenk on Tuesday. The Turkish wrestler won the bout 2-1 despite a stiff resistance from the 25-year-old Indian. Hardeep will still have a chance in the repechage if Cenk makes it to the final.

The opening round was fought well by Hardeep and the Indian in fact, was given an advantage by the referee due to passive fighting from the Turk. While Hardeep struggled to pin his rival to the ground and failed to do the required flip which would have earned him technical points. To his horror, in the very next round, it was the Turk’s turn to get an advantage and he did the flip effectively to get the required two points. In the final round, Hardeep did pull a point back but it wasn’t enough and the 20-year-old opponent came up trumps.

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