Author: Nadir SANANOGHLU
After a long pause, Baku started to host international competitions again. This time it was the world Greco-Roman wrestling championship. As most of the countries let their title-holders have some rest after the recent World Cup in Belgrade, only five teams attended the Baku tournament.
Along with Azerbaijan, these were the national teams of Turkey, Iran, Kyrgyzstan and the world. The Serbs, who were also scheduled to take part in the tournament, were unable to attend due to a mass infection of athletes with coronavirus. After the first stage of the championship held in Groups A and B, the Azerbaijani and Iranian teams advanced to the final stage of the tournament. The Turkish and World teams competed for the bronze medal.
The competition between them was almost even, with the final score of 5-5. However, the wrestlers from around the world won the bronze medal in individual matches, as they prevailed by a larger score.
The final bouts of the World Cup were, as expected, quite tense. Azerbaijani wrestlers were successful in the first rounds. Two-time world and European champion Eldaniz Azizli (55 kg) defeated Poya Dad Marz from Iran (4-1). Nihad Mammadli (60 kg) tried hard but lost with a minimum score to Mehdi Nejat (4-5) also from Iran. Unfortunately, Taleh Mammadov (63 kg) couldn't defeat Iman Mohammadi (0-8).
Hasrat Jafarov's encounter with Seyid Sohrabi was quite interesting to watch. The fans were pleased when the young wrestler from Azerbaijan won by 4 points thanks to a beautiful hold trick. His win (5-1) helped level the overall score at 2-2. Ulvi Ganizade (72 kg) scored a 4:3 victory over Mohammedrza Rostami. Sanan Suleymanov (77 kg) once again pleased his fans by showing excellent performance. Despite a serious injury, Sanan set a confident (7-1) victory over Aref Habibullahi. The experienced wrestler Rafig Huseynov (82 kg) was stronger than Mohammedhossein Mahmodi (5-1).
The overall score was already 5-2, and the Azerbaijani team needed just one win to eventually win the championship. Unfortunately, our heavyweight athletes failed this mission. Murad Ahmadiyev lost by a minimal margin (1-2) to Abolfazl Chobani. Although success in the other two weight categories gave hope, the Azerbaijani wrestlers failed to get the winning point. Arif Niftullayev (97 kg) and Beka Kandelaki (130 kg), despite a very good start, failed to defeat their rivals. The bouts ended in victory for the Iranian team. Despite the final score of 5-5, the Iranian team won the gold medal as one of its athletes won the bout 8-0 (the results of bouts are added together and affect the overall score).
Thus the Azerbaijani team finished the tournament with a silver medal. Perhaps the main reason for defeat in the finals was the psychological preparation of the national team. The team, which has not participated in international competitions for a long time, is undergoing a generational change. Young athletes have psychological difficulties because of the feeling of responsibility. We believe the coaches must take the issue very seriously. A similar problem was observed at the recent world championship in Serbia. Without its timely solution, the Azerbaijani team may be left without medals at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris.
In addition, the national team lacks top-class heavyweight wrestlers. The federation has tried to invite legionaries, to no avail yet. The problem with heavyweight athletes remains unsolved in most Azerbaijani sports, not only in wrestling.
No competition, no win
Azerbaijan's head coach in Greco-Roman wrestling, Alexander Tarakanov, said the number of injured wrestlers increased towards the end of the year, which eventually affected their performance. "The competition in the lightweight categories is good. We see a development there. Athletes in weight categories that we hoped would perform well indeed performed as expected. This is a team of European champions, which also won prizes at world championship and reached the final stage in this competition," Tarakanov commented on the outcome of the tournament.
He believes that the world team included the strongest wrestlers: "We beat the world team, but we lost to Iran in the final. There are many issues to think about, draw conclusions and analyse. We will work on them together with other coaches. Although we had an advantage in the bantamweight division, we lost it later. We expected Arif Niftullayev to win at 97 kg. But he made a mistake which is unforgivable in such competitions. At the world championship he performed very well and took the third place. Almost all his rivals were winners of world championships and Olympic Games. But here he lacked something in terms of psychological preparedness. We will clarify this as soon as we get some rest and come to senses.”
According to the head coach, national team member Beka Kandelaki (130 kg) had an advantage at the start of the bout with Aliakbar Yusufiamadhali, but was unable to hold him and lost the bout due to repeatedly going outside the mat. "To win at such competitions, our super heavyweight athletes must train harder. An athlete has to strive to win, to succeed, to be ambitious. It's true that a Greco-Roman wrestler has to be physically strong, but it's also important to use techniques. Those who train well, remain committed to achieve best results as well. There is competition and good results in the lightweight category. In heavyweight, there is no aggression and perseverance. If you don't train at a good level, you won't get the results you want in competition,” said Tarakanov.