Wrestler Abdulrashid Sadulayev was not allowed into the Olympic qualifying tournament

Wrestler Abdulrashid Sadulayev was not allowed into the Olympic qualifying tournament


One of the brightest stars of Russian sports, wrestler Abdulrashid Sadulayev, has become the most visible victim of the “filters” that Russian athletes who do not give up the idea of ​​competing at the Summer Olympics have to go through. The United World of Wrestling (UWW) did not allow Sadulaev to participate in the qualifying tournament in Baku and, in fact, blocked his way to Paris, citing the athlete’s affiliation with the Dynamo society and “information about his support” for a special military operation in Ukraine. This is a wake-up call for all those already few sports federations in the country that still do not want to ignore the Olympics. After all, the UWW was considered almost the most loyal structure to Russia.

United World of Wrestling announced that the special commission he created, responsible for the admission of athletes with neutral status to competitions, denied it to the Russian freestyle wrestler Abdulrashid Sadulaev, competing in the up to 97 kg category, before the qualifying pre-Olympic tournament in Baku. At these competitions, starting on Friday, tickets to the Summer Olympics in Paris will be played out. To get the right to compete in it, you need to reach the finals.

Sadulayev was supposed to become the main character of the Baku tournament. This athlete is one of the brightest stars not only in domestic but also in world sports.

For several years, Sadulayev dominated his weight class, winning a bunch of prizes, including five gold medals at the World Championships and two at the Olympic Games, winning them in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro and in 2021 in Tokyo. He was forced to undergo additional selection for the Paris Olympics by a misfire at last year’s World Championships in Belgrade. There, Sadulaev was unable to complete the semi-final bout with Bahrain’s Akhmed Tazhudinov due to a neck injury. He later underwent successful surgery on it and got it back into shape. In Paris, Abdulrashid Sadulayev could become the brightest star of the Russian delegation and go down in history if he wins. In men’s wrestling there is only one four-time Olympic champion – Cuban classic Mijain Lopez. Five wrestlers each had three gold medals. There are two Volnikovs among them – domestic legends Alexander Medved and Buvaysar Saitiev.

UWW pointed out that Abdulrashid Sadulaev was removed from the Baku tournament on the basis of criteria developed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which applied a whole package of sanctions against Russia after the start of a special military operation in Ukraine and repeatedly adjusted them. If they comply, Russian athletes can qualify for a trip to Paris in a neutral status. In the case of Sadulayev, an employee of the Russian Guard, the UWW commission drew attention to his formal affiliation with the Dynamo sports society (associated by Olympic functionaries with “national security agencies”), as well as to “new information” regarding his “support” for the special operation. UWW did not explain what exactly this support means. But it is known, for example, that in March 2022 Sadulaev was a guest of a rally-concert in honor of the next anniversary of the annexation of Crimea at Luzhniki. Approximately the same status resulted in instant disqualification for the winner of two Tokyo gold medals, swimmer Evgeniy Rylov.

President of the Russian Wrestling Federation Mikhail Mamiashvili said “RIA News”that he will try to convince the UWW and the IOC to change their point of view regarding Abdulrashid Sadulayev’s compliance with the criteria, saying that he has “enough arguments.”

At the same time, Mr. Mamiashvili noted that licenses obtained in qualifying tournaments are not registered. That is, Sadulayev, who will be replaced in Azerbaijan by Alikhan Zhabrailov, still has a theoretical chance to go to Paris.

Be that as it may, this case should be considered a wake-up call for all Russian federations still considering the possibility of participating in the Olympics. Many of them either de jure, through direct statements, or de facto managed to abandon it. In addition to the federations responsible for team competitions (Russians will not be allowed to participate in them due to the IOC ban), these include those that control artistic and rhythmic gymnastics, boxing, swimming, diving, archery, fencing and some other notable kinds. These structures have long been faced with an extremely harsh attitude towards them on the part of international federations, which essentially deprives them of chances for normal qualification and “filters”.

But the fact is that the UWW was still considered almost the most loyal organization to Russia. In this sense, the World Championships in Belgrade were extremely revealing. The Russian team went to it, which is an exceptional rarity in these days, with almost the strongest lineup, without catastrophic losses and in freestyle wrestling won two gold medals: they were brought by Akhmed Usmanov (category up to 79 kg) and Zaurbek Sidakov (up to 74 kg). It seemed that the UWW, in principle, was not going to put any barriers in the way of its leaders before the Olympics. But they still arose.

At the same time, you need to know that most of the leading wrestlers are associated with the “power” sports societies – CSKA or Dynamo. And also – that the name of Abdulrashid Sadulaev was included in the list of Russian athletes sent by the sports leaders of Ukraine to the UWW and the IOC (it was published by Insidethegames), which the Ukrainian side designated as actively supporting the special military operation. There are nine people in total.

Alexey Dospehov


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