Stars to follow in Women's Wrestling at World Qualifier

By Vinay Siwach

ISTANBUL, Türkiye (May 6) -- Mariya STADNIK (AZE) has endured quite a few heartbreaks in her 16-year-long career. The most recent was her fall against Oksana LIVACH (UKR) in the final five seconds of the match. A win would have confirmed a fifth trip to the Olympics for her.

The four-time Olympic medalist will now be in Istanbul for the World OG Qualifier -- the last chance -- in a bid to earn a Paris 2024 quota. It will also put her one step closer to winning an unprecedented fifth Olympic medal, a feat no one has achieved in wrestling.

But Stadnik isn't the only one with so much to fight for in Istanbul.

Two-time European champion Alina HRUSHYNA (UKR) was also seconds away from earning a spot for Paris when Tokyo silver medalist Iryna KURACHKINA (AIN) scored a takedown to beat her. Hrushyna missed the Tokyo flight after suffering an injury two months before the Games.

Now, she will be in Istanbul along with Tokyo bronze medalist Evelina NIKOLOVA (BUL) who is not yet qualified at 57kg. Both will compete for the three spots available along with other top wrestlers like Alyona KOLESNIK (AZE), Giullia PENALBER (BRA), Aurora RUSSO (ITA), Khongorzul BOLDSAIKHAN (MGL), Kateryna ZHYDACHEVSKA (ROU), Olga KHOROSHAVTSEVA (AIN) and Elvira KAMALOGLU (TUR).

In each Olympic weight class, the winner of the semifinals will earn a berth for the Paris Games for their respective countries. The third spot will be earned by the winner of the playoff between the two bronze medalists of the weight class.

This provides an extra opportunity to the wrestler who lost to the two best wrestlers of their respective weight classes. The repechage, bronze-medal bouts and the playoff will be held the next day.

China, which managed three quotas at the Asian OG Qualifier, will be hoping to claim all six spots for Paris as Jia LONG (CHN) and Feng ZHOU (CHN) compete in the 62kg and 68kg respectively.

Ziqi FENG (CHN), Qianyu PANG (CHN), Kexin HONG (CHN) and Juan WANG (CHN) clinched the 50kg, 53kg, 57kg and 76kg spots with the last three coming at the Asian OG Qualifier in Bishkek last month.

For Long, who was in Tokyo, the field at 62kg will be strong. Veranika IVANOVA (AIN), Lais NUNES (BRA), MANSI (IND), Mariana CHERDIVARA (MDA), Kriszta INCZE (ROU) and Nesrin BAS (TUR) are a few wrestlers who can trouble Long.

Bas is an interesting choice by Turkiye as she regularly competes in the 72kg weight class. She was a U23 world champion in the same. But with the 68kg qualification by world champion Buse TOSUN (TUR) and 76kg by European champion Yasemin ADAR (TUR), Bas decided to move down.

At 68kg, Feng will have to raise her game if she wants to represent China in Paris. The weight has 23 wrestlers including the likes of Elis MANOLOVA (AZE), Mimi HRISTOVA (BUL), Linda MORAIS (CAN), Adela HANZLICKOVA (CZE), NISHA (IND) and Alexandra ANGHEL (ROU).

Hristova would be doubly motivated to win a quota in Istanbul after she missed it in Baku. Leading 8-0 against Manola SKOBELSKA (UKR) in the quarterfinal, she got put on the mat by Skobelska and the Ukrainian secured a fall, leaving Hristova heartbroken.

A few European stars have not managed to earn a Paris spot at 53kg. Two-time Olympian Maria PREVOLARAKI (GRE) will be a strong contender to claim one of the three spots at 53kg.

Annika WENDLE (GER), Sztalvira ORSOS (HUN), Zeynep YETGIL (TUR), Mariia VYNNYK (UKR), Mariana DRAGUTAN (MDA) and Jowita WRZESIEN (POL) will be fighting it out for the quotas as well.

Karla GODINEZ (CAN), the favorite at the Pan-Am OG Qualifier, suffered a loss and failed to qualify Canada. But she will be in Istanbul to earn that spot and join her sister Ana who qualified at 62kg. Khulan BATKHUYAG (MGL) will be a strong contender as well.

Among the big names at 76kg, Martina KUENZ (AUT), Anastasiya ZIMIANKOVA (AIN), Yuliana YANEVA (BUL), Samar HAMZA (EGY), Epp MAE (EST), Elmira SYZDYKOVA (KAZ) and Anastasiia SHUSTOVA (UKR) are taking the trip to Istanbul.

Despite all the stars assembling in Istanbul, Stadnik will be the center of attraction. How does a 36-year-old bounce back from her first-ever loss in Europe? Is she still good enough to compete against some of the best in the world? Is she a medal threat for Paris 2024?

A win in Istanbul will answer those questions.


Valiev gets 74kg Paris 2024 spot; USA completes Olympic line-up

By United World Wrestling Press

ISTANBUL, Turkiye (May 12) -- A day after he was dealt with a heartbreaking loss, Cherman VALIEV (ALB) pulled off a stunning last-second win over Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR) to qualify for the Paris Olympics.

At the World Olympic Qualifier, the last chance to qualify for the Paris Olympics, Valiev lost to Viktor RASSADIN (TJK) in the 74kg semifinal on Saturday after he was docked for a singlet-pull. But 24 hours later, Valiev turned it around. Trailing 2-1 in the Olympic playoff between the two bronze medal winners, Valiev got a par terre position over Demirtas and turned him for two points with just a second left.

Demirtas challenged, asking for a block and two points as he stopped Valiev mid-turn, but blocking was not confirmed on review, giving Valiev another point for a lost challenge and a 4-2 win.

Apart from Valiev's dramatic win to earn Albania's third Freestyle quota for Paris, 70kg world champion Zain RETHERFORD (USA) won the 65kg spot for the United States to complete the line-up for Paris with all six spots. Spencer LEE (USA) won the 57kg spot on Saturday.

China earned two spots for Paris while Georgia and Hungary won a spot each. China won the spots at 57kg and 97kg, Georgia 86kg and Hungary will be represented in 125kg.

Retherford, who lost to Tulga TUMUR OCHIR (MGL) at 65kg, wrestled four bouts on Sunday with his bronze-medal bout against SUJEET (IND) being the closest. Sujeet scored a counter takedown in the first period and tried holding on to that lead in the second. But as he was pushing Retherford towards the zone, the American circled back and took Sujeet down and take a 2-2 lead which he held till the end.

In the Olympic playoff, Retherford got the better of Niurgun SKRIABIN (AIN), 7-0, and earned a sixth Paris 2024 spot for the U.S. Since Retherford won the trials before coming to Istanbul, he will be now going to Paris.

Wanhao ZOU (CHN) and Awusayiman HABILA (CHN) earned the two quotas for China. Zou was up against  Andrii YATSENKO (UKR) and had little trouble beating Yatsenko in the playoff.

Habila wrestled 38-year-old Magomed IBRAGIMOV (UZB) in the playoff at 125kg and came out on top 2-1. Ibragimov got a 1-0 lead after Habila was out on the activity clock but he failed to score. Ibragimov was put on the clock in the second period but he also failed to score giving Habila a 1-1 criteria lead. Ibragimov made a few attempts in the final seconds but failed to get any points.

Ibragimov challenged asking for fleeing but it was not confirmed on review. The Rio bronze medalist later left his shoes on the mat, symbolizing his retirement from the sport.

Vladimeri GAMKRELIDZE (GEO), who lost after giving up a late takedown, left nothing to luck on Sunday and defeated Vasyl MYKHAILOV (UKR), 8-2, giving Georgia its fourth qualification in Freestyle.

Hungary got its second Paris 2024 spot after Daniel LIGETI (HUN) pinned Jose DIAZ (VEN) in the playoff after building a 5-0 lead.

Paris 2024 Qualification Results

Wanhao ZOU (CHN) df. Andrii YATSENKO (UKR), 5-1

Zain RETHERFORD (USA) df. Niurgun SKRIABIN (AIN), 7-0

Chermen VALIEV (ALB) df. Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR), 4-2

Vladimeri GAMKRELIDZE (GEO) df. Vasyl MYKHAILOV (UKR), 8-2

Awusayiman HABILA (CHN) df. Magomed IBRAGIMOV (UZB), 2-1

Daniel LIGETI (HUN) df. Jose DIAZ (VEN), via fall...