Two Russians claim gold to salvage pridePosted: Saturday September 30, 2000 12:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday November 14, 2000 11:43 AM
SYDNEY, Australia (CNNSI.com) - Two Americans lost gold medal freestyle wrestling matches Saturday, falling to a German and a wrestler from Azerbaijan.
Meanwhile, Russia won Olympic freestyle wrestling golds, salvaging some of the nation's pride after its top three wrestlers were beaten by Americans.
Russia's Mourad Oumakhanov won 3-2 at 63 kilograms (139 pounds) over 1998 world champion Serafim Barzakov of Bulgaria. Barzakov took an early two-point lead, but Oumakhanov caught up and dumped his opponent with a leg lift with 15 seconds left to clinch the gold.
Saghid Mourtasaliyev won 6-0 at 97 kilograms (214 pounds) over Islam Bairamukov of Kazakstan. He gained three points late in the first half by holding Bairamukov in a danger position for a five-count.
"It is impossible to describe today's performance or my feelings, because you must get through something like this yourself, to feel it for yourself, to know what it is like," Mourtasaliyev said.
Azerbaijan gained its second gold of these games when Namig Abdullayev defeated American Samuel Henson 4-3 at 54 kilograms (119 pounds).
Germany's Alexander Leipold beat American Brandon Slay at 4-0 at 76 kilograms (168 pounds).
Henson had beaten Abdullayev for the 1998 world title, but Abdullayev, the 1996 Olympic silver medalist, opened a 3-0 lead with 45 seconds gone and never trailed.
Henson came back to tie it, but Abdullayev scored the winning point with a reversal at 4:27 of the 6-minute match.
"I wasn't ready then and I had some injuries," Abdullayev said of that 1998 loss to Henson. "I was so tired."
Abdullayev found a useful way to fight off Henson's scoring attempts, repeatedly pulling on Henson's singlet - a move not permitted by the rules but one he was not stopped from using.
"It should be a point for grabbing the clothes -- he was blocking his moves -- but they didn't call it," U.S. co-coach John Smith said.
Henson, who did not talk afterward, began crying as soon as the match ended and still was crying during the medals ceremony 30 minutes later.
Slay drew loud jeering after the match for not shaking hands with the referee.
"They wouldn't let me wrestle," he said.
As Slay and Leipold locked into the clinch that starts the second period when there is no score, Slay apparently disregarded instructions to position his shoulder the way the referee wanted.
After several seconds, the referee abruptly stopped, cautioned Slay and called him for an illegal hold, giving Leipold a 2-0 lead.
Leipold was later given another point when Slay was cautioned again, apparently for grabbing the hands as Leipold applied a gut wrench. Leipold's only point on a move was a takedown with 5:11 gone.
Scoring decisions are not always explained at the Olympics, not even to the wrestlers and coaches.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.