Except for their shared weight class—149.5 pounds—they are diametrically different fellows. Arsen Fadzaev, a 30-year-old Russian, is a six-time world champion and 1988 Olympic gold medalist who detests training and wrestles as infrequently as he can. "I give very little time to training—three months a year, with nine months off," he says. "I have no desire to work hard." On the other hand, Chris Wilson, 24, of Canada, is a workhorse who trains as many as five hours a day all year long.
Wilson has never won a major international championship. He has lost twice to Fadzaev, but he has also beaten him twice, the only times the Russian has lost at 149.5 pounds (one of those occasions, pictured at right, was a 1990 Goodwill Games match in which Wilson outpointed the mustachioed Fadzaev).
Because Olympic wrestlers are matched by a random draw, the two men could meet in an early round, in the medal round or—if one loses early, which is unlikely—not at all. The nonchalant Fadzaev claims he can scarcely recall Wilson. "Which Canadian?" he replied when asked about his two-time conqueror.
For his part, Wilson has no trouble remembering Fadzaev. As part of his training, Wilson practices visualization, in which he imagines himself wrestling an entire match with a given opponent. Fadzaev, whom Wilson candidly calls "my hero," is a favorite on the Canadian's mental mat. "I can wrestle him 100 times in my mind," says Wilson, "until I become desensitized to it."
Fadzaev's casual approach to training often has him at odds with his coach, Kazbek Dedekaev. But in early June, Fadzaev disappeared into the mountains of Ossetia in southern Russia, accompanied only by a cook, for a short period of serious conditioning. Before he left, he declared that he expected to meet no rivals worthy of the name in Barcelona.