September 01, 2002

The Russian Bear of Wrestling

September 16th is the 65th birthday of the aptly-named champion in free wrestling, Alexander Medved (medved means “bear” in Russian). Medved won three straight Olympic golds: in 1964 (Tokyo) in the middle-heavyweight free wrestling category, and in 1968 (Mexico) and 1972 (Munich) in the heavyweight category. He also captured seven world championship titles. Not surprisingly, therefore, in 1972 the USSR Olympic Team entrusted Medved with carrying the national flag.

At the Munich Olympics, Medved faced a rather tough opponent—US wrestler Kris Taylor, who weighed nearly 200 kg. Next to him, the 114 kg Medved looked like a skinny adolescent. Yet, in the final period, Medved saw that the American was tiring, brought him to the mat and won the bout by just one point. But Medved badly injured his shoulder and had to fight his remaining bouts in terrible pain.

In the final bout against Bulgaria’s Osman Duraliev, Medved could have simply allowed himself a draw, as he would still have come away with the gold. But, true to his aggressive style, he won the match and took home his third Olympic gold medal. His son, Alexei Medved, followed in his father’s footsteps and became a world champion in wrestling.

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