Vlasov gets Russian wrestlers off to strong start in Rio
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Russia's powerhouse wrestling program came through the recent doping scandal that enveloped many of the nation's other athletes unscathed.
Roman Vlasov is hoping his team can rack up the medals in Rio and serve as a source of pride for the rest of its country.
Vlasov got the Russians off to a roaring start on Sunday, winning gold for the second Olympics in a row by taking first at 75 kilograms in the Greco-Roman event.
Vlasov beat Denmark's Mark Madsen 5-1, his second straight win over the Dane in the world finals.
Vlasov's victory will likely be the first of many in Rio for the Russian team, which typically dominates the Olympic wrestling tournament.
''Despite of the situation, the unfair decision of our athletes from the side of WADA, it's very important to get the biggest quantity of medals that we can,'' Vlasov said.
Ismael Borrero Molina won the gold at 59 kilograms, giving Cuba at least one wrestling title in each of the last seven Olympics.
Borrero Molina beat Japan's Shinobu Ota 8-0 Sunday in the first title match of the Olympics.
The Cuban dominated the 22-year-old Ota, pulling ahead with a dramatic throw and turn move and clinching on match superiority for his second consecutive world title.
''I'm really glad to be an Olympic champion. There's a lot of emotion. It's so hard to explain,'' Borrero said. ''It went really fast but I was able to be a stronger athlete and come out on top.''
Vlasov nearly dropped his first match to South Korea's Hyeonwoo Kim, who won gold at 66 kilograms during the London Olympics.
Kim's coaches thought their wrestler had executed a late throw move. It could have won him the match, but the Koreans didn't win their challenge.
Kim battled his way back through the loser's bracket for a bronze, as did Saeid Morad Abdvali of Iran.
In the finals, Vlasov executed a four-point move in the first period - and Madsen didn't score until the match was essentially finished.
Madsen has now finished second in the world five times. Still, by winning silver he became Denmark's first Olympic medalist in wrestling since 1948.
Until Borrero Molina's dominant finale, the buzz of the first day of the Olympic wrestling tournament had been about Ota.
Ota's stunning run to final began with an upset of seven-time world champion Hamid Soryan of Iran 5-4 in the opening set of bouts.
The loss was the second straight international flame-out for Soryan, who was flagged for excessive brutality and ruled ineligible for a medal at last year's world championships in Las Vegas.
But Ota, dubbed by some in his home nation the ''Ninja Wrestler,'' wasn't finished. The 12th-ranked wrestler in his weight class pinned two-time Olympic Games silver medalist Rovshan Bayramov to reach the finals.
Once Ota got there, the defending world champion made it look like he didn't belong.
''It went really fast but I was able to be a stronger athlete and come out on top,'' Borrero Molina said.
Andy Bisek, likely the best shot the U.S has at a medal in the Greco-Roman discipline, was knocked out in the round of 16. So was teammate Jesse Thielke, who was beaten 9-0 by Bayramov.
''I made a few mistakes,'' Bisek said. ''It is very frustrating, but when you win it's extremely rewarding. That's what we're doing it for.''