By Mark Trevelyan
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Kyle Snyder of the United States won the last wrestling gold medal of the Rio Olympics on Sunday but Mongolia provided the most vivid drama when two of its coaches stripped off in protest at their man’s defeat in an earlier bout.
Snyder fought a cagey, low-scoring contest in the 97 kg category against Azerbaijan’s Khetag Goziumov, hanging in to defend his 2-1 lead as his opponent pressed hard in the closing seconds in a bid to lift and throw him.
“He was really strong underneath there. I was like, wow, this guy’s really crazy strong in that position. But I wasn’t going to let another point go up on that board unless it was me scoring,” said the 20-year-old American, who had lost to the same opponent a month earlier.
Azerbaijan were also forced to settle for silver in the earlier 65 kg final, where Russia’s Soslan Rakhmonov defeated Toghrul Asgarov.
It took the Russian male wrestlers’ total to four golds, two ahead of Cuba, to confirm their pre-eminence in what wrestlers say is one of the oldest sports known to mankind.
With an arcane points system based on immobilizing the opponent on the mat or forcing him out of the ring, wrestling can be a challenge for the uninitiated spectator.
The sport was nearly ejected from the 2020 Games in Tokyo on the recommendation of the International Olympic Committee’s executive board, but the IOC later granted it a reprieve.
There was certainly plenty of excitement for the crowd on Sunday, but the most intense moment did not involve actual wrestling.
Two Mongolian coaches stripped off and hurled their shoes in protest after their man, Mandakhnaran Ganzorig, was denied victory for running away from his Uzbek opponent in the dying seconds of their 65 kg bronze medal contest.
Ganzorig, leading Ikhtiyor Navruzov by seven points to six, taunted him by dancing around in the last 18 seconds and was penalized for ‘fleeing the hold’ or evading contact, which caused him to lose 8-7.
Both coaches tore off their shirts and flung down their shoes in fury in front of the judges, with one stripping down to his trunks.
Snyder said he had witnessed the bizarre scene while warming up for his own match.
“That’s pretty crazy… I wonder what that means in Mongolian,” he said.
(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Ken Ferris)