Illustrated Daily, August 1, 1996

Sports Illustrated Daily Feature Story

Gripping Finish

A judges' decision ended a U.S.-Iran war, and Kurt Angle won gold

by Peter King

For the athletes, these have been the Feel-Good Games. Israelis and Palestinians, Bosnians and Croatians have coexisted and competed without raising a fuss about each other. But last night, in the gold medal match of freestyle wrestling's 220-pound class, a global scab started bleeding again.

Kurt Angle of the U.S. won a razor-thin officials' decision over Abbas Jadidi of Iran, prompting an anguished Jadidi to appeal to the officials first, the international wrestling federation second and the American media third. He almost didn't rise to the medal stand to accept his silver medal, and he bitterly refused to accept Angle's victory.


Angle hung on for a 1-1 tie.

photograph by
Tom Lynn

"I respect him as a human being, but I don't respect him as an Olympic champion," Jadidi said through a Farsi interpreter. "The gold medal he's hanging around his neck belongs to me. When I saw this, my thinking of Americans changed a lot."

"I felt [Jadidi] was very unsportsmanlike," Angle said after the two men couldn't break a 1-1 deadlock in overtime. "It was a tie. We both deserved to win. But when you put it in the officials' hands, you have to live with their decision. You can't be a poor sport."

How fitting it was that this match took place in the home state of Jimmy Carter, who was President when 52 Americans were held hostage in Iran for 444 days beginning on Nov. 4, 1979. Jadidi turned Angle at 2:46 of the match, taking a 1-0 lead. Angle came back with a takedown 25 seconds later. That was all the scoring, though Jadidi claimed he executed a two-point double-leg, and the American side said Angle should have been awarded a point as a result of Jadidi's stalling tactics.


Angle wept with joy on the stand as a morose Jadidi cried foul.

photograph by
Robert Beck

Because the score was 1-1 and each wrestler had been cautioned twice, the two officials (Etienne Martinetti of Switzerland and Vassilios Pagonis of Greece) and the referee (Aduuch Baskhuu of Mongolia) had to break the deadlock. Jadidi, who invited himself into the officials' discussion, claimed they favored him 2-1 when they huddled and that Baskhuu incorrectly held up Angle's hand to signify him as the winner. After the decision, Jadidi had to be separated from international wrestling officials. "I am asking the American press to have the wrestling federation hear my protest," he said.

Who really won? It's a coin flip, but Angle was more aggressive. "I think that's why they gave it to me," he said.

The U.S. also won the gold at 125.5 pounds, with Kendall Cross defeating Canada's Giuvi Sissaouri 5-3. "He came to Oklahoma State 10 years ago as a Gumby—no muscles," U.S. coach Joe Seay said of Cross, whom Seay also coached in college. "He made himself a champion." The U.S. added a silver at 149.5 pounds when sluggish Townsend Saunders lost a 1-1 overtime officials' decision to Russia's Vadim Bogiyev.

The drama of the Angle match got the gold medalist thinking about his future. "I've always wanted to be an actor," Angle said. Right. He can play himself in the made-for-TV movie.

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