LONDON (Reuters) - Jordan Burroughs won the first wrestling gold for the United States at the London Olympics on Friday, earning a $250,000 bonus from U.S. officials and vindicating his characteristically confident choice of Twitter name, “All I See Is Gold”.
The world champion with a soft spot for fast food, hip hop and tattoos overpowered Iran’s Sadegh Goudarzi in the final of the 74kg (162lb) freestyle.
The final brought together two countries that are old foes on the wrestling mat and on the world stage. Their leaders are locked in a charged standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
But politics were put to one side during a close-fought bout that eased pressure on a U.S. wrestling team that had previously won only a single bronze at the Games.
An ecstatic Burroughs leapt into the crowd at the end of the bout and hugged his mother before running back across the wrestling mat with the Stars and Stripes draped over his shoulders.
Not prone to self-doubt, Burroughs has “Dream It, Do It” tattooed across his chest and had predicted a gold medal in a series of upbeat messages to fans before the Games.
“I‘m ready to wrestle anyone who steps across that line. If the Queen of England came out on the mat I probably would double-leg her,” he said. “I was ready to go...I had my cross-hairs, my target on a gold medal.”
Burroughs, 24, also beat Goudarzi in the 2011 world championship final.
Both wrestlers made a cautious start to the final, circling each other and trying not to commit.
The breakthrough came with 10 seconds of the first round to go when Burroughs rushed at his opponent, grabbed him around the knees and dumped him on the floor.
The American took the second round in a best-of-three match after bundling Goudarzi out of the ring, triggering wild celebrations from the large U.S. contingent in the packed arena.
It was an emotional victory for a wrestler born in one of the most deprived parts of New Jersey. Years of grueling training helped to hone his technique and build his strength in one of the oldest and most demanding Olympic sports.
”This has been a long time coming,“ he said. ”I’ve trained for a number of years, dreamed for a number of years and got it done.
“I had a plan, executed it perfectly and I‘m Olympic champ.”
In the night’s other final, Russia won their fourth wrestling gold of the London Games when Dzhamal Otarsultanov beat Georgia’s Vladimer Khinchegashvili in the 55kg weight class, the lightest on the men’s program.
It was a tense and close-fought contest and the Russian’s coach picked him up in a fireman’s lift and spun him round at the end of the bout as the noisy Russian contingent in the crowd cheered and waved the national flag.
Additional reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Greg Stutchbury