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Brawl Mars Wrestling Finale

Russia's Saytiev Wins Gold After Heated Bout vs. Gaidarov

By Mike Wise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 30, 2004; Page D10

ATHENS, Aug. 29 -- Americans Joe Williams and Daniel Cormier went down hard on Sunday afternoon, failing to win a medal on a bizarre and violent day that brought more scorn than respect for freestyle wrestling.

Buvaysa Saytiev, the Russian Federation's gold medalist at 163 pounds, and Murat Gaidarov of Belarus exchanged words and then fists after their controversial quarterfinal, a free-swinging donnybrook that involved spectators and coaches at Ano Liossia, the Olympic wrestling venue. It delayed the competition for almost 10 minutes.


Needing one point for the bronze, U.S.'s Daniel Cormier, above, comes up short, against Iran's Alireza Heidari. (Ricardo Mazalan -- AP)


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The bout between two bitter rivals ended after six seconds of added time. Saytiev scored the winning point when the Belarussian received a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct. Gaidarov, who did not wait for the traditional raising of the winner's hand, had to be restrained from attacking the judges.

They left the mat and started jawing and then flailing wildly as their respective entourages got involved. Several of the U.S. contingent helped break up the fight, which lasted several minutes.

Both the Russian and Belarussian delegations were issued warnings, and both athletes and federations face the possibility of sanctions and a minimum fine of $10,000 "depending on the findings of the disciplinary committee," FILA President Raphael Martinetti told the Associated Press.

Saytiev went on to win the gold, his second after Atlanta in 1996. Gaidarov was supposed to wrestle Williams for the fifth-place match. But he never made it to the mat, apparently too beat up from injuries suffered in the brawl.

Williams was already crestfallen after he lost his quarterfinal, 3-2, in overtime to Kazakhstan's Gennadiy Laliyev. But he figured he would at least get some redemption in the fifth-place match against Gaidarov. It never came. He won by disqualification.

"This was just a bad day for me," said Williams, a three-time NCAA champion at Iowa. "I wish I could have performed better."

Cormier may have had a worse afternoon. A day after the United States won three medals -- Cael Sanderson won gold and Stephen Abas and Jamill Kelly both earned silver medals -- Cormier was the freestyle wrestlers' best hope to match the four medals they won in Sydney.

Leading 2-0 in the bronze medal match, Cormier needed only one point against Iran's Alireza Heidari to secure the medal. But the Iranian, desperate and determined, began taking the match to Cormier, scoring twice to tie the match and then turning Cormier over in extra time.

The Iranian delegation erupted from the stands as Cormier slumped to the mat in tears and disbelief, the bronze medal slipping from his grip.


© 2004 The Washington Post Company