October 17, 2000
by Julia Urakcheeva
Of 457 Russian Olympic sportsmen 23 were from the Rostov area. Our team took home 88 medals, seven by the Rostovites. It's a mediocre result. Actually there was a competition inside the team between the 58 regions of Russia whose representatives took part in the Olympiad. The Rostovites were not the best, as their athletes were not so numerous as, say, Moscow athletes. Also, in compared to the amount of medals taken with the earlier achievements, the Olympiads more successful to our countrymen. In 1980 fifteen medals have been brought back to Rostov from Moscow. In Barcelona (1992) the Rostovites were not as good. And four years later in Atlanta, the Olympic history of the team of Russian Federation started. It was for the first time that there were no representatives of the former Soviet republics. Each of them now had their own teams and fought for themselves. In the USA the Rostovites won seven medals, but that time we had more silver than now in Sydney.
The cyclist, the runner, the gymnast and the member of the rowing team - all women - brought home the bronze. The silver medal was won by the gymnastics team. One of the girls was Yelena Produnova, a Rostovite. A boxer from Rostov, Sultan Ibragimov also took silver. We all cherished the hope for his victory, and he didn't fail. And Varteres Samurgashev, the Greco-Roman wrestler, brought the only gold medal to Rostov. It has turned him into a local celebrity.
For 44 years Rostov awaited the gold Olympic medal in this kind of wrestling. Our city has always been proud of its wrestling school. After the triumph of Valentin Nikolaev in Melbourn, (1956) our wrestlers won only silver and bronze Olympic awards. And here it is - the triumph of 21 year old Varteres Samurgashev in Sydney. The Green Continent was lucky for him.
The Samurgashev's family, who is Armenians, has brought up a wrestling dynasty. The Caucasians are traditionally good at such kinds of sports. The elder brother, Raphael Samurgashev, works as a President of the local Greco-Roman Wrestling Federation. He also took part in the Olympics in Sydney but fought for the team of Armenia. Now he says that he has returned into the 'big sport' just "to be with the younger brother". He was not the only one who supported Varteres in Australia; Mama, some relatives and the instructors were there too. It's unlikely that any of the other Russian athletes had such a group of support. His family always loved him a lot and maybe thanks to his parents he became a champion of Russia, rather than a champion of Europe, and a member of the Olympic team at last.
The final vis-a-vis for Varteres was a very experienced athlete who was in his time a silver and bronze winner, - Juan-Louis Maren from Cuba. But Samurgashev managed to beat him. The score was 3:0. Varteres has returned to his homeland as an Olympic champion.
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Julia Urakcheeva is a university student from Rostov-on-Don, Mobile's Sister City in Russia. Julia will be filing periodically stories about life in Rostov and in Russia.
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