To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


By William May
(Japan Amateur Wrestling Federation, Public Information Committee
Kyodo World Services, senior sports


   RIGA (May 3) - Olympic gold medalists Namik Abdullaev and David Musulbes opened and closed the men's finals with hard-fought wins, but in between two new champions were crowned at the European freestyle wrestling championships. Abdullaev of Azerbaijan racked up three points against Olympic bronze medalist Amiran Kardanov of Greece with a takedown and cross-ankle turn in the first 90 seconds of the 55-kg championship at RTU International Exhibition Center.

The 32-year-old law student from Baku made it stand for a 3-1 victory despite four warnings for passivity in the final four minutes of the bout. It was Abdullaev's first continental crown since back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995. Russia's Mavlet Batirov took third place at 55 kg, spinning behind Ramazan Demir of Turkey for a third point and a 3-0 decision at 1:50 of extra time.

In the championship finale at 120 kg, Musulbes of Russia fashioned a workmanlike 4-0 win against the tight defense of Ukraine's Sergey Pryadun for his third straight Euro title and fifth overall.

Alexander Modebadze of Georgia, No. 2 in Europe a year ago, appeared headed for an easy win over Daniel Chintoan Rares of Romania with eight points in the opening two minutes of the third-place match at 120 kg. But Rares, a pudgy sixth-place finisher in the junior world championships in 2001, made a fight of it before falling 14-4 -- only three seconds from regulation.

At 66 kg, Russia's Irbek Farniev prevailed 3-2 against world champion Elbrus Tedeev of Ukraine in a furious final that saw a handful of wild exchanges and ended with Tedeev in a high-crotch and Farniev locked up for a crotch lift. Tedeev had earlier defeated Serafim Barzakov of Bulgaria out of an overtime clinch in the semifinals with a step-across trip that dumped the 2001 world and European champion to his back.

Barzakov also lost to former junior world runner-up Oemer Cubukcu of Turkey on criteria in the match for third place. At 84 kg, Revaz Mindorashvili of Georgia scored three points on an inside trip out of second-period clinch and claimed 5-1 win over Armenia's Mahmed Agaev for his first European championship.

Russia's Vadim Laliev, 22, a junior world champion in 1999, had little difficulty against 33-year-old Andre Backhaus of Germany, forging a 4-1 win for third place.

In the remaining three weights in the men's competition, reigning world champion Eldar Kurtanidze of Georgia was eliminated in the quarterfinals at 96 kg when he failed to clinch properly against Russia's Khadshimourad Gatsalov at the start of overtime.

At 60 kg, defending champion Arif Kama of Turkey posted a pair of wins to advance to the semifinals and Zaur Botaev of Russia, the winner at 66 kg a year ago, notched a pair of wins for a final four showdown with Alexander Leipold of Germany.

In the women's competition, 17-year-old Natalia Golts of Russia wrapped up Greece's Sofia Poubouridou with a cradle and applied the pin at 2:15 for the title at 55 kg. Golts was the bronze medalist at last year's world championships at 51 kg and Poubouridou was the world champion at the same weight. Sylwia Bilenska of Poland scored with an early fireman's carry against Christina Oertli of Germany and won third place with a 5-2 decision.

At 63 kg, Norwegian veteran Lene Aanes caught five-time world champion Nikola Hartmann of Austria with a headlock and nailed down her first major international title with a fall in just 22 seconds. Aanes, last year's world bronze medalist and European runner-up, has gone home with the silver or bronze medals on 10 previous trips to the world or European meets since 1995. Also at 63 kg, world silver medalist Sara Eriksson of Sweden defeated two-time defending champion Malgorzata Bassa of Poland 3-0 for third place.

In the lightest weight category, 48-kg world champion Brigitte Wagner landed on top of Lilia Kaskarakova's attempt at an inside trip and cruised to a 4-0 win against the former junior Euro champion from Russia. Angelique Berthenet-Hidalgo of France hit a headlock right off the whistle to start overtime for a 4-0 win over Norway's Nora Lauvstad.

In the remaining female weights, Stanka Hristova of Bulgaria dominated 67-kg world champion Katerina Burmistrova of Ukraine to advance to the semifinals at 72 kg against Germany's Anita Schaetzle. Defending champion Lise Legrand of France eked out a 1-1 win on criteria over Ewelina Pruszko of Poland and appeared headed for a finals berth at 67 kg. Anne Deluntsch of France and Ukraine's Olga Krygina won their repechage pools and advanced to the semifinals of the 51-kg and 59-kg weight categories respectively.