Author: Nadir SANANOGHLU
The European Wrestling Championship held in Rome, Italy was another test for our wrestlers before the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games. By the way, some of the leading and outstanding wrestlers of Azerbaijan did not take part in the European championship.
High results without a license
The Azerbaijani national wrestling team won 13 medals (2 gold, 2 silver, 9 bronze) at the European Championships in Rome, sharing second and third places with the national team of Ukraine, and the fifth place by the quality of medals. In freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, the national team scored 116 points, becoming the second best in the team classification. The women's team took the seventh place with 65 points.
Six medals was the best achievement of our Greco-Roman wrestling team at European Championships. At the current championship of the continent, it became the second in the team competition, and was the best by the number and value of medals. Sanan Suleymanov (77 kg) and Rafig Huseynov (82 kg) won gold medals in the team with Eldeniz Azizli (55 kg), Murad Bazarov (60 kg), Ulvi Ganizade (72 kg) and Islam Abbasov winning the bronze medals. In freestyle wrestling, Aghahuseyn Mustafayev (70 kg) won the silver medal, Ali Rahimzade (65 kg), Jabrayil Hasanov (79 kg), Aslanbek Alborov (92 kg) and Jamaleddin Magomedov (125 kg) won bronze medals. In the women's wrestling, Alisa Manolova (65 kg) and Tatyana Omelchenko (62 kg) won the silver and bronze medals, respectively.
The number of medals won by Azerbaijani wrestlers in European championships since the country gained independence has reached 149 (48 gold, 33 silver and 68 bronze), making the national team the 8th strongest wrestling team in Europe.
Greco-Roman national team achieved a historic result. It is a shame that the European Championship is not a licensed tournament. That is why the group of Azerbaijan's prominent wrestlers did not took part in the Rome championship. By the way, we still do not have a classic-style fighter qualified for the Olympic Games. Among the winners of the Rome championship, we can note the performance of Sanan Suleymanov (77 kg). This weight category, in which the first-timer of the European Championship achieved bright victories, is included in the program of the Olympic Games. The bronze medallist of the continental championship, Eldeniz Azizli (55 kg), must prove himself in the 60 kg weight category to become qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
In general, the classic-style wrestlers achieved the maximum result at the European Championship. Sanan Suleymanov and Rafig Huseynov experienced the joy of the championship, defeating all their rivals. Suleymanov demonstrated that he can dominate the international arena in the category of 77 kg. And Rafig Huseynov, becoming the second time champion of the continent after a long break, revealed his ambitions. But since he competed in the weight category not included in the program of the Olympic Games, he needed to change his weight category to get qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. We can say that he is a contender for a license in the weight category of 77 kg. The prize-winner of the championship in Rome, Islam Abbasov (87 kg), is also able to win a license. The bronze medallist of the championship demonstrated enviable decisiveness in the battles.
Problems of the women's team
In women's competitions, we got only two medals. In three-day competitions, eight women athletes defended the honour of Azerbaijan. Alisa Manolova (65 kg) lost in the final stage and won the silver medal, while Tatyana Omelchenko (62 kg) became a bronze medallist of the championship. With 65 points, the Azerbaijani women's team took the 7th place. The strongest team was the national team of Russia with 190 points followed by the teams of Ukraine (155 points) and Belarus (97 points).
The fact that we could not win a gold medal without Maria Stadnik, considered one of the prominent wrestlers in the world, gives a reason to seriously rethink the existing situation in the national team. In women's wrestling, only Stadnik achieved serious goals. And the fact that the rest of the athletes could not win a gold medal at the championship of the continent is not surprising. Our strongest athlete in women's wrestling is Maria Stadnik. The rest of our women wrestlers cannot compete with her.
The Azerbaijani national freestyle wrestling team completed the European Championship with five medals (1 silver, 4 bronze). Compared to the previous championship in Bucharest, this is an extremely low rate. Indeed, then the national team had three gold, one silver and two bronze medals. The reason is the absence of leading wrestlers at the current championship. Since the coaching staff focused on licensed tournaments in Hungary and Bulgaria, the team went to Rome without leaders.
The fact that the three-time European champion in freestyle wrestling Jabrayil Hasanov won only a bronze medal has its own reasons. Hasanov's win was definitely a success although he could not recover completely from an injury received earlier. However, it is difficult to say that he will be able to perform well in Tokyo, even if he wins a license. Exhausted in recent years, the wrestler plans to end his career at the end of the year.
In total, 13 medals won at the European Championships is a good result. At the same time, wrestlers, who are our main hope for Olympic medals, must solve the issue of licenses. Currently, our team officially has only two licenses for the Tokyo Olympics - Maria Stadnik and Sharif Sharifov.
Azerbaijan’s national teams in Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling have already begun training camps. Training is a preparation for the European Olympic qualification tournament, which will be held in Budapest on March 19-22. Before the start of the tournament, the Greco-Roman wrestling team will train in Baku. The team will conduct intensive training at the Olympic Wrestling Centre under the guidance of head coach Alexander Tarakanov, head coach Rovshan Bayramov and coach Akif Aliyev. And the freestyle wrestling team is at the training camp in Kislovodsk, Russia. Head coach Zalimkhan Huseynov and coach Akif Abdullayev also coach several members of the national team in the Olympic weight categories. These are Afgan Khasalov and Georgy Edisherashvili (57 kg), Haji Aliyev and Turan Bayramov (65 kg), Togrul Askerov and Hajimurad Omarov (74 kg), Osman Nurmagomedov and Abubakr Abakarov (86 kg), Sharif Sharifov and Nurmagomed Hajiyev (97 kg) , as well as Jamaladdin Magomedov (125 kg).