Cuban wrestler equals Karelin’s Olympic record

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Simply wrestling is tough.

Being one of the best in your country is ridiculously tough. And it is tougher still to be the very best, to represent your nation in the Olympics. Then the ladder starts all over again, and the toughest of the tough, the greatest of the great earn a gold medal.

Then there is Russia’s Aleksandr Karelin who won Olympic Greco-Roman gold three times in a row, at the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Games. Karelin made ferocious men cry, and hold as their highest hope that they don’t get injured.

Now Cuba’s Mijain Lopez, 33, also competing in the 130 kg/286 lbs division, has earned gold at Rio in a 6-0 win over reigning world champion Riza Kayaalp of Turkey, equalling Karelin’s feat.

Immediately afterwards, Lopez celebrated with a dance that drove the crowd crazy. Part salsa, part disco, and part what looks suspiciously like a ‘rasslin inspired “suck it” double crotch chop, the dance sent the arena full of Cuban and Brazilian fans into ecstasy.


Mijain Lopez

“The dance just came natural to me,” Lopez said moments after his match, as transcribed by Brad Brooks for Reuters. “Brazil is Brazil, and in Brazil you have to dance!”

“I’m so proud of reaching the same level of the great Karelin, this is just a tremendous honor. It’s so beautiful to equal that.”

Lopez has also won the world championship nine times, but lost to Kayaalp last year 1-0. This year Lopez came out aggressively, executing a 4-point takedown in the first 30 seconds, and adding another step-out point in the scramble following the takedown. Lopez earned one final penalty point when a frustrated Kayaalp momentarily went old school Pancrase rules, and slapped Lopez.

Lopez was asked who could present a challenge to him now.

“My only competition now is against [Karelin’s] legend,” replied Lopez.