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|OLYMPIC NEWS SERVICE: Men’s freestyle preview for 66 kg, 96 kg
Olympic News Service
Men's freestyle wrestling 66kg: Tough draw for TAGHAVI KERMANI (IRI), SAHIN (TUR) and KUMAR (IND)
LONDON, 11 August - Former world champions Ramazan SAHIN (TUR) and Sushil KUMAR (IND) will meet in the first round of the men's freestyle wrestling 66kg competition at ExCeL on Sunday, while world champion Mehdi Sadegh TAGHAVI KERMANI (IRI) could meet world silver medallist Tatsuhiro YONEMITSU (JPN) in the round of 16 if he gets past his preliminary-round encounter with Livan LOPEZ AZCUY (CUB).
The 2011 European champion Jabrayil HASANOV (AZE) will meet 2011 runner-up Leonid BAZAN (BUL) while 2010 world championship runner-up and European champion Alan GOGAEV (RUS) drew the bottom of the bracket and opens against Zalimkhan YUSUPOV (TJK).
TAGHAVI KERMANI, winner of world titles in 2009 and 2011, also won the 2012 Asian championships in February. At Beijing 2008 he finished only 10th and he also lost the 2010 Asian Games final to YONEMITSU.
Beijing 2008 gold medallist SAHIN also won the 2007 world title and the 2008 European championship but managed only 19th and 20th at the past two world championships and did not book his ticket to London until the final qualification tournament in May.
In 2010 GOGAEV was both junior world champion and senior world championship runner-up, and earlier this year became the first Russian in six years to win at this weight category in the European championships.
KUMAR defeated GOGAEV for the world title in 2010, giving India its first world wrestling champion. KUMAR took bronze at Beijing 2008 and reaching the gold-medal match at London 2012 would be an Olympic Games first for an Indian wrestler.
YONEMITSU is one of the few wrestlers in Japan who did not begin wrestling in a children's programme, so it was a surprise when he made the national team in 2009 and took a bronze medal at the world championships. YONEMITSU defeated TAGHAVI KERMANI for the gold medal at the 2010 Asian Games but lost the rematch in Istanbul in the 2011 world championship final.
HASANOV from Azerbaijan is a two-time world championship bronze medallist from 2010 and 2011, and was European champion in those two years.
Bulgaria's BAZAN was fifth in the 2011 world championships but has been a two-time runner-up in the European championships, most recently to GOGAEV in 2012.
The Japan men's teams has not won a men's wrestling gold medal since Seoul 1988, but Japanese fans are hoping for YONEMITSU's unorthodox, low-level leg attacks to break that drought.
Otar TUSHISHVILI (GEO) took a bronze medal at Beijing 2008 and is wrestling in his fourth Olympic Games.
Men's freestyle wrestling 96kg: Favourites clustered at the bottom of the draw
LONDON, 11 August - Many of the favourites in the men's freestyle 96kg wrestling competition were drawn in the bottom part of the draw on Saturday, opening up the chances for wrestlers in the upper section of the draw for the final day of wrestling competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
In the first preliminary round match, Russian hope Abdusalam GADISOV (RUS) will square off against Beijing 2008 silver medallist Taimuraz TIGIYEV (KAZ), with the winner likely to face world champion Reza YAZDANI (IRI) in the round of 16 at ExCeL. World championships runner-up Serhat BALCI (TUR) will also wrestle in the preliminary round against Asian champion Magomed MUSAEV (KGZ).
Beijing 2008 bronze medallist Georgi GOGSHELIDZE (GEO) appears nicely perched at the top of the draw where a potential opponent in the semifinals could be world championships bronze medallist Jake VARNER (USA).
The measuring stick for success in this weight category over the last eight years has been Athens 2004 gold medallist and four-time world champion Khashimourad GATSALOV (RUS). Shirvani MURADOV (RUS), the Beijing 2008 gold medallist, first had to defeat GATSALOV in order to make the trip to China. Khetag GAZUMOV (AZE) could only become world champion in 2010 by defeating GATSALOV.
Russian coaches are therefore optimistic about Abdusalam GADISOV (RUS), who had to defeat GATSALOV (RUS) in order to make the trip to London 2012.
Since making the move to 96kg last year, GADISOV has also defeated world championships runner-up Serhat BALCI (TUR) and won the 2012 European championships.
Despite the rise of GADISOV, Reza YAZDANI (IRI) is still the world champion and theoretically the man to beat. YAZDANI was also world No.3 in 2006 and 2007, and can boast a couple of gold medals from the 2006 and 2010 Asian Games.
Serhat BALCI (TUR) was the world championships runner-up in 2011 and a bronze medal winner in 2009. He also finished fifth at Beijing 2008 at 84kg. BALCI finished third in this year's European champioships behind GADISOV and 2007 junior world champion Valerii ANDRIITSEV (UKR).
Taimuraz TIGIEV (KAZ) won the silver medal at Beijing 2008 but has not wrestled in many major events since then. He did, however, come fifth at the 2011 world championships after defeating GATSALOV in the round of 16.
Khetag GAZYUMOV (AZE) won a bronze medal at Beijing 2008 and a world title in 2010, defeating GATSALOV in the final in Moscow. He is also a three-time European champion (2009-2011).
Georgi GOGSHELIDZE (GEO) is another bronze medal winner from Beijing 2008.