LONDON (Reuters) - A South Korean wrestler nicknamed ‘Mowgli’ won gold in the Greco-Roman wrestling at the London Games on Tuesday, overcoming a badly swollen eye that left him struggling to see properly.
Kim Hyeonwoo, 23, beat Hungary’s Tamas Lorincz in the 66kg final, the third lightest category in one of the world’s oldest and most physical sports.
With his mop of black hair and winning smile, he bears more than a passing resemblance to the little boy raised by wolves in the Disney adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s classic stories, “The Jungle Book”.
“In my high school, I used to run around in my bare feet, so my friends gave the nickname of Mowgli,” he said. “I‘m very happy with that, even though my foreign friends in the (wrestling) fights keep calling me Mowgli, Mowgli.”
Kim’s bruising route to the final owed more to the Rocky films than Disney, however. He suffered a nasty blow to the right eye in the first qualifying round and it had closed by the time he reached the final.
“I couldn’t open the eye, I couldn’t see,” he said. “The swelling got bigger and bigger as I went on.”
After winning the final, Kim knelt on the wrestling mat and kissed his country’s flag as a packed arena cheered.
There was more success for Iran in the second final of the night when Ghasem Rezaei won the Greco-Roman heavyweight class, taking his country’s wrestling gold tally to three.
The Iranian, who only managed 16th place in Beijing four years ago, beat Russia’s Rustam Totrov in the final of the 96kg weight class.
Jubilant Iranian supporters roared and waved their nation’s flags as Rezaei kissed and hugged his coach in celebration.
Rezaei had beaten the Armenian favorite Artur Aleksanyan in the quarter-final. Totrov won bronze at the world championships in 2011 and was among the favorites for gold in London.
“To see all the Iranians inside the stadium and back home, to bring smiles to their faces is the happiest moment of my life,” said Rezaei.
It was the final day of the Greco-Roman, a discipline where holds must be above the waist and athletes are restricted from using their legs to bring down an opponent.
The freestyle - where athletes can use their legs to defend and attack - runs from Wednesday to Sunday.
Editing by Greg Stutchbury