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Russian sambists tussle their way to the top

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The best Sambo images of Baku 2015

Sambo | Best of Baku 2015
Aymergen Atkunov of Russia (red) and Islam Gasumov of Azerbaijan (blue) compete in -57kg final. Michael Steele/Getty Images
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 22: Vasif Safarbayov (blue) of Azerbaijan reacts after his defeat in the Men's Sambo +100kg gold medal match against Artem Osipenko (red) of Russia during day ten of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 22, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 22: Yana Kostenko of Russia (red) and Kalina Stefanova of Bulgaria (blue) compete in the Women's Sambo -60kg Final during day ten of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 22, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 22: Alsim Chernoskulov of Russia (red) and Andrei Kazusionak of Belarus (blue) compete in the Men's Sambo -90kg Final during day ten of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 22, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 22: Islam Gasumov of Azerbaijan (blue) and Vakhtangi Chidrashvili of Georgia (red) compete during the Men's Sambo -57kg during day ten of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 22, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 22: Azamat Sidakov of Russia (blue) and Stsiapan Papou of Belarus (red) compete during the Men's Sambo -74kg semi finals during day ten of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 22, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 22: Islam Gasumov of Azerbaijan (blue) celebrates victory over a prone Vakhtangi Chidrashvili of Georgia (red) during the Men's Sambo -57kg semi finals during day ten of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 22, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 22: Katsiaryna Prakapenka of Belarus (blue) and Ana Repida of Moldova (red) compete during the Women's Sambo -60kg quarter finals during day ten of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 22, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 22: Azamat Sidakov of Russia (blue) and Stsiapan Papou of Belarus (red) compete during the Men's Sambo -74kg semi finals during day ten of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 22, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
© Getty Images
BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 22: Islam Gasumov of Azerbaijan (blue) and Vakhtangi Chidrashvili of Georgia (red) compete during the Men's Sambo -57kg semi finals during day ten of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 22, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 22: Kanan Gasimov of Azerbaijan (blue) and Ivan Vasykchuk of Ukraine (red) compete during the Men's Sambo -90kg quarter finals during day ten of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 22, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 22: Kanan Gasimov of Azerbaijan (blue) and Alsim Chernoskulov (red) compete during the Men's Sambo -90kg semi finals during day ten of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 22, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 22: Artem Osipenko of Russia (blue) and Radu Malcic of Romania (red) compete during the Men's Sambo +100kg quarter finals during day ten of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 22, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 22: (L-R) Silver medalist Nazakat Khalilova of Azerbaijan, gold medalist Anna Kharitonova of Russia, bronze medalist Magdalena Varbanova of Bulgaria and bronze medalist Ruta Aksionova of Lithuania pose on the medal podium for the Women's Sambo -52kg Finals during day ten of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 22, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 22: Artem Osipenko of Russia enters the arena prior to the Men's Sambo +100kg gold medal final against Vasif Safarbayov of Azerbaijanon day ten of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 22, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 22: Silver medalist Volha Namazava of Belarus, gold medalist Ivana Jandric of Serbia and bronze medalists Celine Conde of France and Olga Zakhartsonva of Russia pose during the medal ceremony for the Women's Sambo -67kg on day ten of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Heydar Aliyev Arena on June 22, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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A review of Sambo at the Baku 2015 European Games

Russia proved themselves to be the dominant force in Sambo at the European Games, winning five of the eight gold medals available, plus three bronzes. The remaining golds went to Belarus (two) and Serbia.

"Russia rate this event even higher than the world championships and have chosen all their top-ranked athletes," Belarusian sambist Andrei Kazusionak said before the event. "They will have a formidable team." 

Unfortunately for Kazusionak, he was right. Had he won his -90kg final it would have put Belarus level with Russia - briefly - on three golds apiece. But he lost to three-time world champion Alsim Chernoskulov.

Belarus were second best overall with two golds, two silvers and three bronze medals. Hosts Azerbaijan had a disappointing competition, losing all seven of their medal matches.

Russia, meanwhile, even won gold with a third-choice sambist. Yana Kostenko lost in the national championships in March to Svetlana Burtseva, who was the original choice for Baku 2015. Burtseva got injured, the second-ranked competitor was unavailable so, at three days' notice, Kostenko was told she was in the team.

After defeating Kalina Stefanova of Bulgaria, Kostenko, a world champion in 2012 and 2013, said, "I felt bad for a couple of weeks after losing, but I was given this chance and I took it. I'm thrilled."

Azerbaijan's great medal hope, world champion Amil Gasimov, was beaten in the -74kg final and taken from the arena in a wheelchair having injured his right Achilles in a fierce hold by the winner, Belarusian Stsiapan Papou, who carried Gasimov off the mat in a gesture that earned warm applause from a crowd of nearly 5,000.

"I did it because I have had the same injury and I know how much it hurts," said Papou, who also helped Gasimov on and off stage for the medal ceremony.


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    Russian sambists tussle their way to the top

    A review of Sambo at the Baku 2015 European Games
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    Victorious Sambo fighter carries injured opponent off

    Papou shows human side after defeating Gasimov for gold medal
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    Russia and Belarus dominate Sambo medals

    Eight wins in eight medal fights for formidable five-gold Russia
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    Russians unbeaten in 50 Sambo match-ups

    Azerbaijan and Belarus also look strong going into finals
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    Azerbaijani athletes ready to Sambo

    North-western city of Ganja produces a raft of talent in the combat sport
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    Getting to know... Sambo

    Discover a combat sport that was developed by the Soviet Union's Red Army in the 1920s
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    Serbian Jandric hoping for Sambo medal at Baku 2015

    Ivana Jandric may be Serbia's only Sambo fighter at Baku 2015. But she still has high aspirations.
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