Salem Radio Network News Friday, September 24, 2021

Sports

Olympics-Wrestling-‘New superstar’ Lopez Nunez reaches final in record bid

By Ece Toksabay

TOKYO (Reuters) -Cuban Mijain Lopez Nunez got off to flying start in his bid to become the first four-times Olympic champion in Greco-Roman wrestling on Sunday when he won all three matches at the Tokyo Games without conceding a point, advancing to the final.

Lopez Nunez, who has won the super heavyweight title at the last three Olympics, brushed aside Romania’s Alin Alexuc Ciurariu 9-0 and Iran’s Amin Mirzazadeh 8-0 to reach the semi-finals at the Makuhari Messe Hall.

In the semi-final, he won 2-0 against Turkey’s Riza Kayaalp, the silver medalist in Rio 2016 and bronze medalist in London 2012. The pair kissed each other on the forehead and shared a hug after the match.

Japanese freestyler Kaori Icho, the first woman in any sport to win individual gold medals at four successive Olympics, is the only wrestler to have won four Olympic titles.

Nenad Lalovic, President of United World Wrestling (UWW), said that 38-year-old Lopez Nunez was on a path to become “the new superstar of wrestling”.

“If he gets the gold medal this week, he will be the first man to have ever achieved that,” Laloviv said on Sunday.

“We already have a woman who’s done it, so finally a man will equal a woman,” he added with a laugh.

“He’s not the youngest wrestler out there. But he’s in great form. You cannot see that often, winning in the heaviest category in that age. He’s just great.”

Nunoz Lopez will take on Georgia’s Iakobi Kajaia for the gold medal, who beat his Chilean rival Yasmani Acosta Fernandez.

In the men’s lightest weight category of Greco-Roman wrestling, Cuba’s Luis Alberto Orta Sanchez will compete against Japan’s Kenichiro Fumita for the gold medal.

Both finals will take place on Monday.

WOMEN’S FREESTYLE

United States’ Adeline Maria Gray, who beat her Kyrgyz rival Aiperi Medet in the semi-final, will face Germany’s Aline Rotter Focken for the gold medal in women’s heavyweight category on Monday.

The biggest surprise of the opening day came when Canada’s reigning freestyle heavyweight Olympic champion Erica Wiebe lost her opening match 5-4 to Estonia’s Epp Maee.

“Wiebe gives a lot of pressure. The only way to beat her was to get her pressure away from me, push her to the sides, and finding chances to attack,” Maee told Reuters on Sunday.

“I wasn’t worried about her Rio medal because every competition is a new competition. New match, new day, we are all here to win and I am happy I won today.”

Eighteen gold medals are up for grabs with nearly 300 wrestlers competing at the Makuhari Messe Hall.

Wrestling at the Games will feature two disciplines, freestyle and Greco-Roman. Men will compete in both disciplines while women will only participate in the freestyle events.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Hugh Lawson)

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