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Uzbekistan heavyweight Artur Taymazov wins 3rd straight Olympic gold medal

08/11/2012 05:27 EDT | Updated 10/11/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - As a young boy in Russia, Artur Taymazov dreamed of becoming the next Alexander Karelin.

He did it.

Taymazov of Uzbekistan won his third straight Olympic wrestling gold in men's 120-kg division on Saturday night, beating Georgia's Davit Modzmanashvili to become the third male wrestler to win gold medals in three straight Olympics.

Taymazov, who grew up in Russia and moved to Uzbekistan ahead of the Sydney Olympics in 2000, joins Alexander Medved of the former Soviet Union and Karelin as three-time winners.

Taymazov, by virtue of his silver in Sydney in 2000, also equaled Karelin's Olympic medal haul in Greco-Roman wrestling.

Taymazov quickly acknowledged that Karelin should still be ranked higher because he's won more world championships, but in terms of the Olympics Taymazov has matched him.

"He's the name in wrestling, and I'm really, really glad that I've equalized with him on the medal total," Taymazov said. "I wanted to be like (Karelin), and now I am."

At 33 years old, many wondered if Taymazov had enough left to make a run at another gold medal.

He showed the quickness of a teenager in beating Modzmanashvili in the first period, escaping a leg clinch and scoring in just five seconds to break a scoreless tie.

"I was thinking about it all the time...I wanted the third gold as well," Taymazov said. "It was my dream. I didn't think about anything else."

A pair of Azerbaijanis; Toghrul Asgarov and Sharif Sharifov, also won gold medals Saturday.

Asgarov won the Olympic wrestling gold medal in the men's 60-kilogram freestyle Saturday, upsetting Besik Kudukhov of Russia 1-0, 5-0.

Asgarov, the 19-year-old junior world champion from 2011, beat Coleman Scott of the United States in the semifinals men's 60-kilogram freestyle before taking down Kudukhov, the four-time world champion, in the final.

Kudukhov settled for bronze in Beijing and silver in London, while Scott recovered to win bronze for the U.S.

"I've got this medal now. I can't really get my head around it because I'm so overjoyed," Asgarov said.

Sharifov took Olympic wrestling gold medal in men's 84-kilogram freestyle by beating Jaime Yusept Espinal of Puerto Rico 6-1, 2-0 Saturday.

Sharifov, the defending world champion, beat American Jake Herbert in a quarterfinal that led to a post-match dispute between U.S. coach Zeke Jones and officials. He shook it all off and picked up wins over three-time Asian champion Ehsan Naser Lashgari in the semifinals and Espinal in the final.

Espinal delivered just the second silver medal in Puerto Rico's Olympic history — and the first medal of any kind by a Puerto Rican wrestler.

"The opponents here are all serious. For example, I didn't expect that my last opponent would be Puerto Rican. It proves that the Games are unpredictable," Sharifov said.

What started out as a banner day for the Americans quickly dissolved in a mess of defeats and disputes.

Scott's victory in his bronze medal match helped alleviate some of those bad feelings.

The U.S., perhaps feeding off the momentum of Jordan Burroughs winning gold Friday night, started 5-0 on Saturday, with heavyweight Tervel Dlagnev taking down defending world champion Aleksei Shemarov of Belarus in the quarterfinals. Dlagnev looked sharp and appeared ready to take down the mighty Taymazov, but Taymazov pinned him 1:50 into the first period.

Dlagnev later lost the bronze medal match when Iran's Komeil Ghasemi pushed him out of the circle with just nine seconds left in the final period.

Scott made a surprise run to the semis before being drubbed by Asgarov.

Herbert's first loss had U.S. wrestling coach Zeke Jones going after officials.

Jones was given a yellow card, a warning similar to a yellow handed out in soccer, after a challenge thrown by the U.S. resulted in Sharifov being awarded the victory in the second period.

The Americans believed Herbert should have scored three points because he stopped Sharifov and then threw him. Jones said that the referees ruled in favour of Sharifov, the defending world champion, while a separate jury ruled it in favour of Herbert.

"I can beat one guy on the mat but not one guy and three officials," Herbert said.

Herbert later lost in his consolation round opener, but Scott came back in his bronze-medal matchup with a brilliant late third-period takedown.

Scott had to win the Olympic Team Trials and beat Reece Humphrey and Shawn Bunch just to make the team.

Scott is the unlikeliest medal winner yet for the Americans. His bronze also assured the U.S. wouldn't come home with just one medal like they did from Beijing.

"It wasn't the medal I wanted, but I couldn't leave with nothing. I would not be denied a medal," Scott said.

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