x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

'There is only one Alexander Medved'

He reportedly was offered an opportunity to join the lucrative ranks of professional wrestlers in the United States, but chose his country over cash.

After winning his third consecutive Olympic freestyle gold medal, in 1972, Alexander Medved of the Soviet Union reportedly was offered an opportunity to join the lucrative ranks of professional wrestlers in the United States.

Medved said "nyet", adding: "In America there are many millionaires, but in the USSR there is only one Medved."

The entire episode may be fanciful, given that in 1972 the old Soviet Union was not in the habit of allowing elite athletes to emigrate, nor to allow them to do interviews with the media lackeys of the corrupt West. But it probably is an accurate assessment of the esteem in which wrestlers are held there, particularly one as successful as was Medved.

He began wrestling in 1956 while in the Soviet army, and he won his first Olympic gold at Tokyo in 1964, in the light-heavyweight division.

At Mexico City in 1968, he won the heavyweight gold despite suffering a dislocated finger in a match versus the German Wilfried Dietrich. Medved popped the finger back into place himself.

In 1972 he took the superheavyweight gold despite weighing no more than 105kg. His best-known victory in Munich was over the 190kg American Chris Taylor, a controversial 1-0 decision.

Medved was dominant in other championships, as well, losing only once in a world final between 1962 and 1972.

Fila, wrestling's world governing body, named him the freestyle wrestler of the 20th century, the bookend to Alexander Karelin, who was named the Greco-Roman wrestler of the century.

Medved, however, retired after a victory, at Munich. After clinching the gold, he kissed the mat.

Now 74, the published author of two books on wrestling and a former university administrator lives in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.