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A stage of the Final between Melnichenko and Hall – da:gettyimages.in

Article by John Manenti

Upon completion dissolution of the Soviet Empire at the end of December 1991, the Republics that made it up acquire relative independence and autonomy – first of all Belarus, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – although, on the occasion of the successive Barcelona 1992 Olympics (as well as for the European Football Championships of the same year …) the athletes who made up the selections of the former USSR compete under the denomination of “Commonwealth of Independent Stateswith the exception of the already mentioned four Baltic countries, whose independence was recognized earlier …

This implies that, in order to be able to participate autonomously and under their respective banners in the Five Circles Review, the remaining ones Republics must wait for the Atlanta 1996 editionwhile this already happens in the post-Olympic four-year period as regards the International and/or Continental Reviews, and among these, we are dealing today in particular with Kazakhstanwhich – if we except Ukraine, traditional “reservoir” for the Soviet Representation – that’s what achieves the best result, with its athletes reaching the podium 11 timeswith 3 golds, four silvers and the same number of bronzes.

A country, Kazakhstan, which also regularly wins medals in subsequent editions, so much so that at the conclusion of the Tokyo 2020 Games, your medal collection contains 71 laurels, of which 14 gold, 22 silver and 25 bronzewith the Disciplines of the Boxing, Wrestling and Weightliftingwhich alone total 52 podiums, even though Athletics, despite having only 5 medals, brings two affirmations, with Olga Shishigina on the m.100hs in 2000 in Sydney and Olga Rypakova in the triple jump in London 2012 …

Given these premises, it is therefore not surprising if, in the references “Centennial Olympics”, the premium three Kazakh Gold Medals come from Boxing and Wrestlingas well as from the Modern Pentathlon with Alexander Parygin who, moreover, later competes for Australia, while for the other two we trace today the story of the man who was chronologically the first representative of his country to climb the top step of the podium at the Games, as well as, above all, capable of winning a greater number of titles in his specialty of Greco-Roman wrestling.

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Born on 5 June 1972 in Jalal-Abad, a city of over 100,000 inhabitants located in the southwestern area of ​​Kyrgyzstan, a country bordering Kazakhstan, Yuriy Melnichenko he stands out when, just 18 years old, he imposes himself at the 1990 World Junior Championships in Tel Aviv where, still under the Soviet flag, he gets the better of the Finnish Ari Haerkaenen, to repeat this success the following year, this time overcoming the Romanian Constantin Dodita …

Such performances induce the 19-year-old Yuriy, a Jew of Ukrainian origin, to visit the “Wailing Wall” in Jerusalem and insert into a slot a piece of paper with your desire written on it to become an Olympic and World Champion one day, which convinces him to move to Kazakhstan to make himself available to technician Daulet Turlykhanov – silver in Seoul 1988 and bronze four years later in Barcelona – who ends his career, now 30 years old, by becoming the first Kazakh wrestler to win a world championship medal, taking silver in the middleweight category in the 1993 Stockholm Show.

And that’s how from the next edition that takes place from 8 to 11 September 1994 in Tampere which enters the scene the 22-year-old Melnichenko, which crowns its debut in a major international event as best it could winning the Gold right at the expense of the Russian Alexander Ignatenkowhile the bronze is the prerogative of the American Dennis Hall who, the following year in Prague, prevents the Kazakh from claiming another world championship, with Ignatenko completing the podiumso that there cannot be excessive doubts as to who are the favorites at the Olympic Games scheduled in Atlanta from 20 July to 2 August 1996 …

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Or, better to say, there shouldn’t be, since at the debut of 19 July 1996 on the platforms of the “Georgia World Congress Center”, with pairings that in the Fight do not take into account the Ranking, here is ad facing each other are Ignatenko and Melnichenko, a challenge with a sensational outcome, given that the 24-year-old Kazakh literally dominates the match by imposing himself for “clear superiority(translated into 11-0 in the score of the fight …) after 2’29 “, which represents a humiliation of no small importance for the now 33-year-old Russian, on his last chance to win an Olympic medal, after finishing fourth place in the two previous editions of Seoul and Barcelona.

For Melnichenko, vice versa, the possibility of moving forward after “got rid of” one of his most dangerous opponents – disheartened, Ignatenko was also defeated 3-2 by the Greek Sarkis Elgkian in the repechages, leaving the scene definitively – which led him to easily dispose of the Romanian Marian Sandu, albeit on points (4-0). in the second round, in which he stands out the victory after only 2’02” of the Ukrainian Ruslan Khakymov over the Armenian Manukyanwhile, on the contrary, the world champion Hall manages to narrowly prevail (3-2) on the South Korean Park Chi-ho …

With five wrestlers remaining in the match without defeats, only one match is played the following day to reduce them by one unit and thus give rise to the semi-finals, and it certainly cannot be said that the program is tender with Melnichenko, who is opposed by Khakimov himself, but the outcome is similar to that of the match against Ignatenko, even though it continued until the end of the regulation 5′but with a score (7-1) in their favor such as not to admit replies.

And, as if that weren’t enough, even the pairings of the two the semifinals see the Kazakh forced to face the much more experienced German of Turkish origin Rifat YildizWorld Champion in the two-year period 1990-’91 and Olympic silver medalist in Barcelona 1992, in which the Gold in the Bantamweight Category (up to 57 kilos) went to An Han-bong – while Hall has to deal with the Chinese Sheng Zetianwho had conquered the bronze in Catalan soil …

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But Melnichenko has so far shown that he does not incur any awe towards his opponents, ed even if Yildiz confirms his value, at the end of the match the judges’ decision can only be unambiguous, sanctioning the Asian’s victory on points for 3-0, while much more complicated is the commitment of the American who wins access to the Gold Final with a superiority (1-0) somewhat narrow.

And so here is that, while the German and the Chinese have to play for the bronze with those coming from the repechages, including Khakymov who defeats Yidiz and then surrenders to Sheng who thus confirms the podium in Barcelonaall eyes are on the platform where it is about to begin the revenge of the World Championship Final of the previous year, for a match which climaxes after 1’38” when Melnichenko surprises Hall by lifting him off the ground with a move that earns him four points, amply enough to defend in the remaining time, conceding to the American only one point, thus ensuring that the first anthem of Kazakhstan ever played in the history of the Olympics takes place on the occasion of its ceremony of awards .

And, if you have had the patience to follow the full report, I defy anyone to say that he didn’t really deserve it, evidently his request to the “Wailing Wall” he had to sweat it out…!!

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