LONDON (Reuters) - Uzbekistan’s Artur Taymazov won a third consecutive super-heavyweight wrestling gold at the London Games on Saturday to become the most successful freestyle competitor in Olympic history.
With three golds and one silver, Taymazov jumped ahead of Russia’s three-time Olympic gold winner Alexander Medved in the rollcall of freestyle wrestlers.
One of the sport’s most experienced figures, Taymazov won golds in Beijing in 2008 and Athens in 2004, taking the silver in Sydney in 2000.
Despite his pedigree, Taymazov was not among the favorite going into the London Games after he finished eighth in last year’s world championships.
But the 33-year-old never looked like losing to Davit Modzmanashvili of Georgia in the 120kg (265lb) final, the sport’s heaviest division.
“I came on the mat with a decision: I win here or I die here,” he said. “To be honest, it hasn’t sunk in yet.”
The father-of-two punched the air and waved to the handful of Uzbek supporters in the crowd before lifting up one of his coaches and running him around the wrestling mat.
Azerbaijan enjoyed their best night of the Games, winning a pair of wrestling golds to add to their two silvers and two bronzes from earlier in the week.
Outsider Toghrul Asgarov won a surprise gold for the former Soviet republic in the 60kg freestyle wrestling final.
He swept aside the Russian favorite Besik Kudukhov, the 2011 world champion who won bronze in Beijing in 2008.
Asgarov did not drop a point, comfortably winning the first two rounds of the three round bout.
“I put everything into being Olympic champion,” he said. “It was my destiny to win and, with Allah’s help, I’ve got this medal now.”
The defeated Kudukhov is a former pupil of the school in Beslan that was the scene of one of Russia’s worst atrocities when gunman took hundreds of children and parents hostage in 2004.
A total of 333 hostages - half of them children - died in the siege, which ended with a chaotic rescue attempt.
Azerbaijan’s second medal went to Sharif Sharifov in the 84kg freestyle final. He beat outsider Jaime Yusept Espinal of Puerto Rico.
Coleman Scott of the United States won a bronze in the 60kg, beating Japan’s Kenichi Yumoto.
“It wasn’t the medal I wanted but I couldn’t leave with nothing. I would not be denied a medal,” Scott said.