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Russia triumph but home fans also leave happy

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The best Wrestling images of Baku 2015

Wrestling | Best of Baku 2015
Adela Hanzlickova of the Czech Republic and Henna Johansson of Sweden compete in the freestyle 63kg quarter-finals. Michael Steele/Getty Images
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 13: Rasul Chunayev of Azebaijan celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Men's 71kg Greco-Roman final against Balint Korpasi of Hungary during day one of the Baku 2015 European Games at Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 13, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 15: (L-R) Silver medalist Ilana Kratysh of Israel, gold medalist Alina Stadnik Makhynia of Ukraine, bronze medalist Aline Focken of Germany and bronze medalist Natalia Vorobeva of Russia pose with their medals won in the Women's Freestyle 69kg Wrestling Final during day three of the Baku 2015 European Games at Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 15, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 14: Pascal Eisele of Germany (red) and Dmytro Pyshkov of Ukraine compete in the Men's Wrestling 75kg Greco Roman bronze medal final during day two of the Baku 2015 European Games at Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 14, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 17: Mindaugas Rumbutis of Lithuania celebrates against Jozef Jaloviar of Slovakia in the Wrestling Men's Freestyle 97kg repechage during day five of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 17, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 16: (L-R) Silver medalist Yuliia Tkach of Ukraine, gold medalist Valeriia Lazinskaia of Russia, bronze medalist Mariya Mamashuk of Belarus and bronze medalist Anastasija Grigorjeva of Latvia pose with the medals won in the Women's Wrestling 63kg Freestyle final during day four of the Baku 2015 European Games at Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 16, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 14: Zurabi Datunashvili of Georgia (blue) and Chingiz Labazanov of Russia compete in the Men's Wrestling 75kg Greco Roman bronze medal final during day two of the Baku 2015 European Games at Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 14, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 17: Ilias Bekbulatov of Russia competes against Maxime Fiquet of France in the Wrestling Men's Freestyle 65kg repechage during day five of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 17, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 17: Gold medalist Togrul Asgarov of Azerbaijan stands on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Men's Freestyle 65kg Final on day five of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 17, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 17: (L-R) Silver medalist Marcel Ewald of Germany, gold medalist Viktor Lebedev of Russia and bronze medalists Alexandru Chirtoaca of Romania and Sezar Akgul of Turkey pose during the medal ceremony for the Men's Wrestling 57kg Freestyle on day five of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 17, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 17: Khetag Gazyumov of Azerbaijan celebrates winning gold after defeating Elizbar Odikadze of Georgia during the Men's Freestyle Wrestling 97kg on day five of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 17, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 18: Haji Aliyev (red) of Azerbaijan and Mykola Bolotnjuk (blue) of Slovakia compete in the Men's Wrestling 61kg Freestyle 1/8 final during day six of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 18, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Harry Engels/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 17: (L-R) Silver medalist Elizbar Odikadze of Georgia, bronze medalist Abdulsalam Gadisov of Russia, gold medalist Khetag Gazyumov of Azerbaijan and bronze medalist Valerii Andriitsev of Ukraine pose on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Men's Freestyle Wrestling 97kg on day five of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 17, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 15: Mariya Stadnyk (blue) of Azerbaijan and Iwona Matkowska (red) of Poland compete in the Women's wrestling 48kg Freestyle semi final match during day three of the Baku 2015 European Games at Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 15, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 15: Sofia Mattsson of Sweden (blue) and Katarzyna Krawczyk of Poland compete in the Women's 55kg Freestyle Wrestling final during day three of the Baku 2015 European Games at Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 15, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 15: (L-R) Silver medalist Elitsa Yankova of Bulgaria, gold medalist Mariya Stadnyk of Azerbaijan, bronze medalist Iwona Matkowska of Poland and bronze medalist Valentina Islamova Brik of Russia pose with their medals won in the Women's Freestyle 48kg Wrestling Final during day three of the Baku 2015 European Games at Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 15, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 15: Marianna Sastin of Hungary (blue) and Svetlana Lipatova of Russia compete in the Women's Freestyle 60kg Wrestling Final during day three of the Baku 2015 European Games at Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 15, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 14: Artem Surkov of Russia celebrates his victory over Migran Arutyunyan of Armenia during the Men's Wrestling 66kg Greco Roman final during day two of the Baku 2015 European Games at Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 14, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 16: (L-R) Silver medalist Roksana Zasina of Poland, gold medalist Anzhela Dorogan of Azerbaijan and bronze medalists Nadzeya Shushko of Belarus and Merve Kenger of Turkey pose during the medal ceremony for the Women's Wrestling 53kg Freestyle during day four of the Baku 2015 European Games at Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 16, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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A review of Wrestling at the Baku 2015 European Games

After Russia's Evgeny Saleev defeated local favourite Rafig Huseynov in the 80kg Greco-Roman final on the first day of competition he said: “When all the crowd is against you it just winds me up and makes me try harder. I wanted to prove that Russia is the strongest team.”

He and his team-mates did just that. The home fans provided a great atmosphere at the Heydar Aliyev Arena, and Azerbaijan’s wrestlers put up a strong challenge, but Russia dominated despite leaving several of their champions at home.

The Russians put in a special effort at pre-competition training camps and were rewarded with 11 golds, putting them five clear of the host nation, with the rest well behind.

Russia’s most impressive Greco-Roman winners were Saleev and Islam Magomedov (98kg). Valeriia Lazinskaia, meanwhile, surprised the world champion from Ukraine, Yuliia Tkach, in the women’s 63kg.

As if to emphasise Russia’s overall dominance, Abdulrashid Sadulaev beat Moldova’s Piotr Ianulov on superiority after only 98 seconds to clinch the 11th gold, in the freestyle 86kg.

Wrestling is the national sport in Azerbaijan, and the country’s President Ilham Aliyev presented three gold medals to home winners, the most popular of whom were Togrul Asgarov, Mariya Stadnyk and Khetag Gazyumov.

Asgarov, who had won nothing since taking Olympic gold in 2012, had a momentous first-round contest against the Russian Ilias Bekbulatov, which he edged 8-7.

But for the luck of the draw, this match could well have been the final, so impressive and well-matched were the two wrestlers. Bekbulatov fought magnificently against the Olympic champion, and had the home fans on edge in the closing seconds as he came desperately close to defeating their great hero. He later deservedly took bronze through the repechage.  

After that it was easier for Asgarov, as the crowd roared him to victory in the freestyle 65kg.

Stadnyk, 26, has won Olympic bronze and silver, and after winning the 48kg she will be hoping to add gold in Rio de Janeiro next year.

Gazyumov was cheered to victory against the Russian favourite, Abdusalam Gadisov, in the 97kg semi-finals. In the final, the noise was so loud that it was impossible at times to hear the referee’s whistle as Gazyumov beat Georgia's Elizbar Odikadze.

In addition to challenging for a new decibel record, the Baku 2015 Wrestling competition offered a number of memorably quirky moments, one of which was the sight of freestyle 57kg competitor Alexandru Chirtoaca collecting a bronze medal after winning just one match.

The Moldovan lost to a German who went out in the quarter-finals, but because two semi-finalists were disqualified for punching each other, he went straight into a bronze medal match via the repechage without having to fight, beating an Albanian to win bronze.

The tournament's standout quote, meanwhile, may have been given by Yuliia Tkach, Ukraine’s 63kg silver medallist and world champion, when asked about wrestling and femininity. “Wrestling is so cool. The body is more beautiful and muscular when you do sport.

"You see what a beautiful girl I am, fighting for a medal and afraid of nothing.”


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    Russia triumph but home fans also leave happy

    A review of Wrestling at the Baku 2015 European Games
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    Akgul flies the flags as Russia sign off with a treble

    Russians top Wrestling medal table ahead of Azerbaijan and Turkey
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    Russia to finish Wrestling on a high

    Powerhouse already assured of top place in medals table ahead of final night
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