Olympics: Gardner Unable to Defend His Olympic Title

Aug 25 2004

Gardner Unable to Defend His Olympic Title

By Ori Lewis

ATHENS (Reuters) – U.S. heavyweight Rulon Gardner lost his Olympic
title Wednesday after being beaten in the semi-final stage of the
120kg Greco-Roman wrestling event by Georgiy Tsurtsumia of

In a bout which went into overtime, the bigger and stronger-looking
Tsurtsumia held on for a 4-1 scoreline after the two men tied at 1-1
at the end of the mandatory six minutes.

Gardner, 33, narrowly escaped death when stranded in temperatures of
minus 25 degrees Celsius after his snowmobile broke down in a forest
in Wyoming in 2002.

He lost a toe to frost bite and last year also suffered a dislocated
shoulder in a motorcycle accident.

The articulate American had no regrets about his tactics in the bout.
He said: “I gave 100 percent, I have no bad feelings. I was trying to
score a point to win the match but he countered me and beat me. I

Tsurtsumia stands at 6-foot-4 and towered above Gardner, whose
physique is much stockier and who stands at about 6-foot-1.

Gardner said that all his opponents had studied his technique closely
and knew exactly what was needed to beat him.

“These people (my opponents) have come here having learned each
set-piece. They saw what I can be worked on, where I’m weak,” he

Gardner beat the seemingly invincible Russian Alexander Karelin to
win the 130kg gold medal at the Sydney Games in 2000 but that
category has been dropped in Athens to make room for the women’s
wrestling events.

Gardner now meets Iranian Sajad Barzi for the bronze. Tsurtsumia’s
opponent for gold will be Russia’s Khasan Baroev.

In the other finals to be contested Wednesday, Russia’s Alexei
Michine will fight for gold in the 84kg division against Sweden’s
Armenian-born former world champion Ara Abrahamian.

In the 66kg class Farid Mansurov of Azerbaijan will meet Turkey’s
Seref Eroglu, while in the 55kg category Istvan Majoros of Hungary
will battle Gueidar Mamedaliev of Russia.

Elimination bouts in the three other Greco-Roman weight categories
(60kg, 74kg and 96kg) began Wednesday with medal bouts set for
Thursday. The freestyle competition begins on Friday in a
corresponding format to the Greco-Roman event.