Kayaalp ends Turkey’s drought
Turkey’s Rıza Kayaalp (R) fights with Georgia’s Guram Pherselidze for the bronze medal on the Men’s 120kg Greco-Roman wrestling. Kayaalp finally ended Turkey’s long wait for a medal in the London Olympics. REUTERS photoWrestler Rıza Kayaalp won a bronze medal on Aug. 6, ending Turkey’s drought in the London Olympic Games.
Kayaalp beat Georgia’s Guram Pherselidze 3-0 in the bronze medal match of the men’s 120kg Greco-Roman wrestling competition at the Excel Arena to claim Turkey’s first bronze medal in the Olympics.
“I wish that bronze medal had not had so much importance,” the 22-year-old Kayaalp said to Turkish reporters yesterday. “I wish more medals came before I started the competition. I hope there are more medals to come for Turkey.”
Kayaalp, who came to London with world and European championships under his belt, was Turkey’s greatest medal hope in wrestling, but he was not the only one. Four wrestlers, including two-time world champion Selçuk Çebi, came to the mat before Kayaalp, but all lost their first round matches and were left out of the competition.
“Especially Selçuk Çebi’s losing caused a dip in morale, because we expected a medal from him,” he said. “His elimination caused stress to us, but I concentrated anyway to do my best, and win a bronze medal.”
It is difficult to say that Kayaalp’s success made a break in Turkish wrestlers’ form: Atakan Yüksel and Cenk İldem lost their first-round games yesterday.
On Aug. 6, Kayaalp started the competition in the round of 16, and easily overcame Evgeni Orlov of Ukraine. Then he beat American Deshon Byers in the quarterfinals to set up a meeting with defending champion Mijain Lopez on Aug. 6. After a hard-fought bout, Lopez won the match to send Kayaalp to the bronze medal game. The Cuban went on to win the gold medal, successfully defending his 2008 title.
Kayaalp added that he could have fared better in the semifinal, but fatigue got the better of him.
“I had just about 10 minutes between the quarterfinal and semifinal,” Kayaalp said. “I was the only person that could beat him. In the first period I gave away an easy point after a mistake. If I could have avoided that, maybe I could have won that first period. I don’t want to make excuses, though. This is the Olympics and you should be ready for everything.”
Kayaalp believes that he will have a chance for the gold in the future.
“I won bronze and silver medals before I won the world and European titles, too,” he said. “Here, I won my first medal in third place. And I believe I have two or three Olympic Games ahead [of me] and I want to win a gold medal in the future.”