#WrestleBaku, #WrestleParis

With Paris 2024 quotas on offer, Women's Wrestling stalwarts head to Baku

By Vinay Siwach

BAKU, Azerbaijan (April 2) -- A four-time Olympic medalist, an Olympic history-maker for Turkiye and two Olympic medalists in the same weight class. The European OG Qualifier in Baku from April 5 is going to be a huge test for some of the wrestling stars such as Mariya STADNIK (AZE), Yasemin ADAR (TUR), Iryna KURACHKINA (AIN) and Evelina NIKOLOVA (BUL) who take the mat in a bid to qualify for Paris Olympics.

Kurachkina and Nikolova were 57kg medalists at the Tokyo Olympics, winning silver and bronze respectively. The two wrestlers met in the European Championships final in February with Kurachkina beating Nikolova to win the gold medal.

However, the qualifiers will not be the same. Apart from the two in-form wrestlers, former European champion and world bronze medalist Alina HRUSHYNA (UKR) returns to the mat after nursing an injury that kept her away for 10 months.

Hrushyna missed the World Championships and will be unseeded for the tournament. While it is unknown if she will return to her top level in Baku, if she does, Hrushyna's opponents will find it difficult to stop her.

Kurachkina and Nikolova will not meet in Baku as they will be drawn on opposite sides of the bracket. The former will be seeded second while the latter at number four.

World fifth-place finisher Elvira KAMALOGLU (TUR), who came in striking distance to win the Olympic spot at the World Championships, is seeded number one and Zhala ALIYEVA (AZE), a bronze medalist at the European Championships, takes the number three spot.

Tokyo Olympian Olga KHOROSHAVTSEVA (AIN), U20 world champion Aurora RUSSO (ITA), world bronze medalist at 59kg Othelie HOEIE (NOR) and Kateryna ZHYDACHEVSKA (ROU) are also entered in the draw.

Mariya STADNIK (AZE)Mariya STADNIK (AZE) has a perfect record over Oksana LIVACH (UKR). (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

This may be a little easier for four-time Olympic medalist Stadnik who won her 10th European title in February. She will be the top seed at 50kg in Baku and has past wins over most of her opponents. Stadnik should sail if her performance in Bucharest is anything to go by.

Oksana LIVACH (UKR) will have the best chance to halt Stadnik as she will be seeded fourth and likely to meet her in the semifinals. The winner will earn a Paris 2024 spot. Their latest clash was at the European Championships semifinal which Stadnik won 6-0.

Kseniya STANKEVICH (AIN) and former European champion Miglena SELISHKA (BUL) will be on the other side of the bracket as seeded two and three respectively.

Yasemin ADAR (TUR)Yasemin ADAR (TUR) is the reigning European champion at 76kg. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Turkiye's first-ever Olympic medalist in Women's Wrestling Adar returned to the mat in February after a year's absence and won the European title at 76kg. That makes her the favorite to win a Paris Olympic quota in Baku.

Adar will be unseeded and drawn randomly in the bracket which has Catalina AXENTE (ROU) as the top seed, Rita TALISMANOVA (AIN) as the second seed, Anastasiia OSNIACH SHUSTOVA (UKR) as third and Anastasiya ZIMIANKOVA (AIN) as the fourth seed.

Others in the bracket include Martina KUENZ (AUT), former European champion Epp MAE (EST), Pauline LECARPENTIER (FRA), Francy RAEDELT (GER), 2024 European bronze medalists Bernadett NAGY (HUN) and Enrica RINALDI (ITA).

Andreea ANA (ROU)Andreea ANA (ROU) will be dropping to 53kg in a bid to win an Paris 2024 quota. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

At 53kg, European champion at 55kg and Tokyo Olympian Andreea ANA (ROU), world medalist and Tokyo Olympian Maria PREVOLARAKI (GRE), former Euro silver medalist Sztalvira ORSUS (HUN), 2024 Euro bronze medalist Zeynep YETGIL (TUR) are the few stars among others.

Orsus will be seeded number one for the qualifier with Prevolaraki getting the second seed. Natalia MALYSHEVA (AIN), who Prevolaraki pinned to win the 2024 Euro bronze, is at number three while Ana is fourth.

Yetgil will be without a seed and so are Mariana DRAGUTAN (MDA), Jowita WRZESIEN (POL), Liliia MALANCHUK (UKR) and Elnura MAMMADOVA (AZE), all of whom can upset any of their opponents on the day.

Bilyana DUDOVA (BUL)Bilyana DUDOVA (BUL) will be the top seed at 62kg in Baku. (Photo: United World Wrestling)

Former world champion Bilyana DUDOVA (BUL) perhaps has the best chance to earn a Paris spot at 62kg from Baku after missing out at the World Championships. As the top seed, Dudova will be a favorite. She was stunned by Johanna LINDBORG (SWE) at the European Championships and will have to forget that loss as Lindborg can be drawn in her bracket.

Veranika IVANOVA (AIN) is the second seed with Mariana CHERDIVARA (MDA) taking the third spot and Birgul SOLTANOVA (AZE) fourth.

But a few others can also go all the way. That line-up includes Alina KASABIEVA (AIN), Lydia PEREZ (ESP), Viktoria VESSO (EST) and Kriszta INCZE (ROU).

Khanum VELIEVA (AIN)Adela HANZLICKOVA (CZE), left, and Khanum VELIEVA (AIN) are two of the five past Olympians at 68kg. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Five past Olympians will try to be at the Paris Olympics at 68kg but only two will be able to confirm that in Baku. Elis MANOLOVA (AZE), Mimi HRISTOVA (BUL), Adela HANZLICKOVA (CZE), Ilana KRATYSH (ISR) and Khanum VELIEVA (AIN) have been to the Olympics either in Rio or Tokyo. But can they return?

Former European champion at 72kg Alexandra ANGHEL (ROU), age-group European and world medalist Wiktoria CHOLUJ (POL) and young star from Ukraine Manola SKOBELSKA (UKR) are a few of the challengers. Skobelska was a late replacement for European silver medalist Tetiana RIZHKO (UKR).

Hanzlickova, winner of bronze at the 2024 Europeans, is seeded number one with other bronze medalist Hristova getting the second seed. Noemi SZABADOS (HUN) is number three and Danute DOMIKAITYTE (LTU) is fourth.

With Manolova and Velieva unseeded, the path to Paris may not be the easiest for others in the bracket.

#WrestleBaku, #WrestleParis

Aliyev leads as Azerbaijan wins six Paris 2024 quota at European qualifier

By Vinay Siwach

BAKU, Azerbaijan (April 7) -- Haji ALIYEV (AZE) on the mat in front of a packed stadium in Baku for an Olympic spot. The fans cheered every time he scored. It only got louder as he inched towards victory. As the final whistle blew, Aliyev stretched his arms and fell on the mat even as the National Gymnastics Arena in Baku was defeaning.

Two-time Olympic medalist Aliyev, 32, qualified Azerbaijan for the Paris Olympics at 65kg with an entertaining 6-4 victory over European champion Islan DUDAEV (ALB). Aliyev was back.

Since winning the silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics, Aliyev has not dominated the 65kg weight class. He finished fifth at the 2022 World Championships and eighth at the 2023 edition.

Azerbaijan was losing confidence in its star as the Paris Olympics came closer with it still to earning a qualification. Aliyev was under pressure and his conditioning was being questioned. And a few youngsters were knocking on the door.

Yet, Aliyev entered the European OG Qualifier in Baku as the favorite. In front of the home crowd and as the captain of the Azerbaijan Freestyle team, Aliyev had to deliver.

After seeing off Khamzat ARSAMERZOUEV (FRA) and Niurgun SKRIABIN (AIN), Aliyev faced Dudaev for Paris qualification. Dudaev won the European Championships in Bucharest in February after defeating Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (AIN).

He threatened to beat Aliyev, leading 3-0 at the break. But Aliyev managed to get on a single leg and score a takedown to close the gap to 3-2. He again hit the same shot and got a takedown before using the lace to make it 6-3. Dudaev tried hard but Aliyev was too good with his defense and only gave up a stepout for one up.

Azerbaijan will most likely give Aliyev the spot in Paris 2024, his third in his career. Aliyev will be looking to win his third Olympic medal after a bronze medal in Rio 2016 and a silver in Tokyo 2020.

The second Paris 2024 quota at 65kg was won by Goderdzi DZEBISASHVILI (GEO) who defeated Maxim SACULTAN (MDA), 2-1, in the other semifinal. The two wrestlers exchanged passivity but Sacultan was put on the activity clock in the second period, giving Dzebisashvili the criteria win. 

Aliyev's win was one of the five that Azerbaijan had to become the first country to win all six Freestyle Olympic quotas. Apart from Aliyev, Aliabbas RZAZADE (AZE), Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE), Osman NURMAGOMEDOV (AZE), Giorgi MESHVILDISHVILI (AZE) earned quotas.

Rzazade seemed in a hurry to be off the mat as he opened the scoring against former European champion Vladimir EGOROV (MKD). He kicked off the bout with a stunning ankle pick for a takedown in the first five seconds of the bout and tried to soak in the Baku pressure by pacing around the mat as Egorov took time to return to the center.

In the second period, Rzazade scored a stepout when Egorov was on the activity clock, giving Rzazade a 4-0 lead. Egorov scored a takedown and was given one more point for Rzazade's fleeing at the end but the Azerbaijan wrestler won 4-3 to win the quota at 57kg.

Former world bronze medalist Aryan TSIUTRYN (AIN) defeated Tokyo Olympian Georgi VANGELOV (BUL), 7-3, in a one-sided semifinal to earn the second quota at 57kg.

At 86kg, Nurmagomedov showed his skills to beat Vasyl MYKHAILOV (UKR), 4-1, to earn a qualification. He also defeated Ramazan RAMAZANOV (BUL) in the quarterfinals.

Wrestling internationally for the first time since 2021, Olympic and world bronze medalist Artur NAIFONOV (AIN) confirmed his Paris 2024 spot after a gritty 4-0 win over Vladimeri GAMKRELIDZE (GEO). In the quarterfinal, Naifonov held off European champion Dauren KURUGLIEV (GRE) 2-1.

Giorgi MESHVILDISHVILI (AZE) confirmed the qualification at 125kg after he defeated Alen KHUBULOV (BUL), 7-0. The other qualification went to Dzianis KHRAMIANKOU (AIN) who defeated Kamil KOSCIOLEK (POL), 9-2.

A last-minute replacement for Abdulrashid SADULAEV (IND), Alikhan ZHABRAILOV (AIN) still got the job done of qualifying after he defeated Illia ARCHAIA (UKR), 11-0 to earn the Paris 2024 quota.

The second spot at 97kg was won by Aliaksandr HUSHTYN (AIN) after his opponent Radoslaw BARAN (POL) pulled out due to an injury he suffered in the quarterfinal.

At 74kg, Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE) did let the ghost of past affect him as he held on to a 8-8 win over Frank CHAMIZO (ITA) in a thrilling bout.

Chamizo trailed 8-6 but got awarded two caution points and almost scored a takedown which was reverted on challenge and Bayramov got a criteria win and an Olympic quota.

Tokyo Olympic silver medalist Magomedkhabib KADIMAGOMEDOV (AIN) held on to a 3-2 win over European champion Taimuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK) to win the quota. All five points were technical points.




57kg Paris Qualification Bouts
SF 1: Aliabbas RZAZADE (AZE) df. Vladimir EGOROV (MKD), 4-3
SF 2: Aryan TSIUTRYN (AIN) df. Georgi VANGELOV (BUL), 7-3

65kg Paris Qualification Bouts
SF 1: Goderdzi DZEBISASHVILI (GEO) df. Maxim SACULTAN (MDA), 2-1
SF 2: Haji ALIYEV (AZE) df. Islam DUDAEV (ALB), 6-4

74kg Paris Qualification Bouts
SF 1: Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE) df. Frank CHAMIZO (ITA), 8-8
SF 2: Magomedkhabib KADIMAGOMEDOV (AIN) df. Taimuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK), 3-2

86kg Paris Qualification Bouts
SF 1: Artur NAIFONOV (AIN) df. Vladimeri GAMKRELIDZE (GEO), 4-0
SF 2: Osman NURMAGOMEDOV (AZE) df. Vasyl MYKHAILOV (UKR), 4-1 

97kg Paris Qualification Bouts
SF 1: Alikhan ZHABRAILOV (AIN) df. Illia ARCHAIA (UKR), 11-0
SF 2: Aliaksandr HUSHTYN (AIN) df. Radoslaw BARAN (POL), via inj. def.

125kg Paris Qualification Bouts
SF 1: Dzianis KHRAMIANKOU (AIN) df. Kamil KOSCIOLEK (POL), 9-2