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Tough times awaits Narsingh Yadav at Rio Olympic Games: A look at his biggest challengers

771   //    20 Jul 2016, 17:35 IST
Narsingh Yadav
Can Narsingh Yadav bring home a medal from Rio?

No stranger to adversities from a very young age, Narsingh Pancham Yadav has seen it all. From a young boy who watched his father sell milk to make both ends meet, to squaring off in tournaments which Sushil Kumar considered unimportant to participate in, the last 3 years have been one hell of a ride for this 26-year-old wrestler from Uttar Pradesh who is now settled in Mumbai.

Life on the mat was anyways tough physically and mentally, but destiny dragged him to a court battle with one of India’s wrestling and Olympic legends Sushil Kumar.

But just the way he has been winning on the mat, the battle in the court was won and he gained the right to represent India at the Rio Olympics.

For someone who has a World Championships Bronze, Asian Championships, and Commonwealth Games golds,  Asian Games bronze, a fifth place finish in the 2103 World Championship over the last 5 years, all this seems a bit unfair.

Opposition at Rio

In the process, he has overcome some very good grapplers like Zalimkhan Khadjiev, Onorbat, Lopez, Soner Demirtas and Jabrail Hasanov. All these men secured Olympic quotas for their respective countries and will also be at Rio.

But three of Narsingh’s toughest opponents at Rio would be multiple World and defending Olympic Champion Jordan Burroughs, the extremely physical Russian Aniuar Geduev and the latest kid from the vast Iranian stable of wrestlers Hassan Yazdani.

Jordan Burroughs

If one were to go by statistics across wrestling history over last 100 years, probably only the Siberian Greco-Roman great Alexander Karelin and the two mighty Japanese Saori Yoshida and Kaori Icho have superior achievements.

Since 2011, across four World Championships, one Olympic Games, four Pan American Championships/Games and a few dozen Olympic trial matches against his own countrymen thrown in, Burroughs has lost just one match. This was in the 2014 World Championships to Russian Denis Tsargush. In terms of matches played over this period, his record stands at 50-1

Burroughs’s tournament wins in the last 5 years are as follows:

World Championships: 2011, 2013 & 2015 with a bronze in 2014.

London Olympics: 2012

Pan American Games/Championships: 2011, 2014, 2015 & 2016

This already mind-boggling record gets more impressive if we include the Freestyle World Cups, Medved Cup and Yasar Dogu tournaments that he has won.

At the 2013 World Championships Burroughs had outscored the best wrestlers in the world 34-3 on his way to another gold medal. So whats’ special in it? Incredibly Burroughs had an ankle surgery 27 days before this tournament with a metal plate and five screws in his ankle for company.

Burroughs and his coaches effectively hid the injury, defied the advice of his surgeon and competed. The injury, due to the surgical procedure, usually takes at least two months to recover from before thinking of light activity.

Burroughs not only competed, but dominated less than four weeks after it happened. He only started training on a wrestling mat a week prior to the world's toughest tournament, yet completely obliterated the field.

A very good set of opponents including Narsingh Yadav await him at Rio, but the defending Olympic Champion has a more than favorable record against all the leading contenders to his throne including Yadav.

What makes him even more dangerous is, the hunger remains just as intense as it was during his NCAA collegiate wrestling days.

Does he get credit for his achievements?

Fans, both in the wrestling and non-wrestling world would have observed that when the world’s best athletes are discussed, usually Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Lebron James, Lin Dan and the likes come up. Have we heard of Jordan Burroughs? Bet most of us have not. Not fair on probably the most dominant male athlete of our generation.

Just one more thing.The IOC considered dumping wrestling from the Olympics. The crazy thing is, the world’s best athlete is quite possibly a wrestler.  

Time to move on to Russia and Iran

Aniuar Geduev

Geduev is coming off the most successful year (2015) of his career where he claimed the inaugural European Games title in Baku and a bronze in the Las Vegas World Championship. The Russian was again impressive in the European Games and the World Championships, with only Burroughs managing to stop him at Las Vegas as he b 4-3 in favor of the American.

In wrestling and weightlifting circles, many consider the Russian National championships to be as tough as any world level event. Geduev managed to win his nation’s Olympic qualifiers by defeating London Olympic bronze medallist and 3-time  world champion Denis Tsargush in the finals. Tsargush, is the only man to have defeated Burroughs over the last 5 years.

These are impressive credentials for the Russian who has defeated most his major opponents at Rio apart from Burroughs. He is though yet to face Narsingh Yadav.

Hassan Yazdani

Hailing from Juyber, the same county as his illustrious compatriot Reza Yazdani, this 22-year-old youngster shot into limelight by winning the Junior World Championships 2014 in the 66kg category. Gradually moving up the weight ranks he won Silver at last year World Championships in the non-Olympic 70kg category. 

It seems the Iranian Wrestling Federation had marked him out for Rio, as Yazdani started competing in the Olympic 74 kg category this year and won the silver in the Paris Grand Prix and Alexander Medved tourney. Exposure to international wrestlers was top priority (Indian Federation to take note please).

But the big breakthrough came in the Freestyle World Cup earlier this year. Yazdani won all his matches and was a major factor in Iran winning their fifth consecutive title. His wins over Deirenger and Khetik Tcabolov vindicate his country’s faith in him. Burroughs maybe a bridge too far but he would be a handful for the rest in this category.

Thrilling action awaits us at Rio in this category.

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