Snyder was better prepared at Olympics: Sadulaev after 'easy' win to 5th World title

By Vinay Siwach

OSLO, Norway (October 8) -- They had not wrestled each other for three years since that night in Budapest but now they faced each other twice in two months. Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RWF) and Kyle SNYDER (USA) put on a show at the Tokyo Olympics in August and this week in Oslo, Norway. Sadulaev, who lost to the American in 2017 Worlds, avenged that loss at the 2018 Budapest edition. A third bout was expected in Nursultan but Snyder lost in the semifinal while Sadulaev reached the final.

The 1-1 tie was broken in Tokyo, the sport's grandest stage, when Sadulaev beat Snyder 6-3 to claim his second Olympic gold. When the two met in Oslo, it was a question of Snyder keeping up with the Russian Tank or Sadulaev making it an one-sided affair.

"I really wanted to win in Oslo, because five-time world champion sounds better than four-time champion," Sadulaev said.

He did become a five-time world champion when he beat Snyder 6-0 in the 97kg final and also led the Russian Wrestling Federation to yet another team title win at the World Championships. The fact that it came down to this bout to decide the title was history repeating itself. Back in 2017, it was the same case but Snyder then defeated a new-to-97kg Sadulaev and claimed the title for USA.

"Years of work pays off and thank God I won again," Sadulaev said. "I always have tough matches with Snyder. I could barely get off the mat at the Olympics, today I was tired at the end, but everything went well."

Sadulaev took some time to catch his breath after the bout in Tokyo and sat matside before finally leaving the arena. But in Oslo, his conditioning looked better and a change in strategy helped him pull off the win with ease.

"In Tokyo, I immediately began to attack, but here in the first period I decided to see what he would do," he said. "I understood his tactics, and in the second period I did not let him take the lead."

Now a five-time world champion Sadulaev explained more about his approach to a 'Synderlaev' bout and said he doesn't really plan for a bout against his American opponent.

"I don't have any special tactic for the matches against Snyder," Sadulaev said. "I know he is trying to wear me out. So I was trying to make him wrestle my way and not let him set his own rules. In the end, I noticed that he got more worn out than me.

"Personally, I think he was better prepared physically and mentally at the Olympics. I was more tired there. It was easier to win here." 

Sadulaev had a 5-0 lead after the first period. Snyder was called for passivity and as soon as the activity clocked ended, the RWF wrestler pounced with a takedown to increase the lead and then exposed the American with a gut. Snyder did try to attack but was called passive for his lack of activity and won 6-0.

Asked whether this was the most difficult win for him, Sadulaev said that the 2018 win in Budapest still remains a special win for him given that it was a revenge bout.

"Then I had been waiting for that match for a whole year, I wanted to take revenge," he said. "And at the Olympics or today, I didn’t expect to wrestle with him. Here, the most important thing was to win the gold medal of the World Championship. Of course, it's nice that our rivalry with Snyder makes people more interested in our sport."

Despite leading the head-to-head tie 3-1, Sadulaev believes that it won't be easy going forward to wrestle Snyder. "Before the third match, we could not meet for three years, but now it is the second match in two months. There will be no undefeated wrestler, sooner or later everyone loses, it's just that now is my time." 

Sadulaev injured his knee right before the Olympics and it was doubted that he would struggle with the injury. But he said that he would have fought in the Olympics even if he had no leg.

"I have not yet fully recovered from the injury, but in Oslo I felt better than in Tokyo," he said. "I think that now I deserve a little rest and I will heal. My personal coach Shamil OMAROV is next to me - he is like my father, my elder brother during competitions and training camps, and he prepares me in a special way for each bout."

It is still unclear when the new season will start for the star wrestler but he said that till he is healthy, he will continue wrestling at the World Championships with no target on how many medals he wants to win at the megaevent.

"I want to enjoy the victory and have a little rest, and then I will think," he said. "With the help of God there will be no injuries, there will be no problems. I will wrestle for as long as I have strength and health. I am not planning to leave the sport before Paris Olympics. I will keep preparing for the upcoming tournaments.

"For now I will go for a vacation. I will spin the globe and go wherever my finger points."

Sadulaev was leading a young team to Oslo with only him and Tokyo bronze medalist Artur NAIFANOV (RWF) wrestling at the event. Tokyo Olympics champions Zavur UGUEV (RWF) and Zaurbek SIDAKOV (RWF) decided to skip the Oslo event. 65kg bronze medalist Gazhdimurad RASHIDOV (RWF) was also missing from the event.

The 26-year-old said that it brought added responsibility to him and explained that the experience of wrestling at the World Championships will be invaluable for the team.

"The longer I wrestle, the more responsibility it brings," he said. "Before, no one knew my wrestling style, today everyone knows how I wrestle, and I have to work hard to keep winning.

"I am glad that the number of world champions in Russia has increased. There are only two Olympians in our team. The rest of the guys are young. Some wrestled worse than they could actually do because we know that it is sometimes more difficult to win the national championships than the world championships. They went through tough trials, came here, but someone lacked experience, anything can happen. I will say one thing that everyone has a great future, the main thing is never giving up."


What's the driving force behind Vlasov's attempt to win a third Olympic title?

By Eric Olanowski

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (December 9) -- Roman VLASOV (RWF) was denied a chance to go for a third Olympic gold earlier this year, but made sure he would not miss out on his shot at winning a third world title.

Vlasov chalked up a meticulous and hard-fought 2-1 victory over ‘20 European champion Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) to take the 77kg at October’s World Championships in Oslo.

"I was super tired, I couldn't even celebrate as I usually do," Vlasov said. "I left all my power and energy on the mat."

Prior to the Tokyo snub, Vlasov considered ending his career. But the desire to achieve his dream of matching the legendary Alexander KARELIN (RWF) with three Olympic golds inspired him to reset his sights for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Like his hero and son’s god father, Karelin, Vlasov is a native of Novosibirsk in southwestern Siberia and was mentored by the great coach Viktor KUZNETSOV.

Oslo would be the first stop on the long road to Paris, as it would provide confirmation that he could live up to his own expectations. A world champion in 2011 and 2015, he finished out of the medals in 2017 and 2019.

"The last time I won the World Championships was in 2015, before in 2011. It’s been a long time," Vlasov said. "I missed these emotions. To be the best in the world is the thing I’ve been dreaming about. It’s the thing I think about when I wake up in the morning before going to training."

After barreling through the rounds, winning each of his four matches by at least seven points, Vlasov found a formidable foe in Suleymanov, this year's European bronze medalist and the ‘19 U23 world silver medalist.

Vlasov, a four-time European champion who turned 31 in Oslo, had the first chance in par terre, but could only get a 1-point stepout after walking the airborne Suleymanov over the edge.

But Suleymanov had no answer when the roles were reversed in the second period, and Vlasov clinched the win when he deftly evaded a stepout attempt in the final 20 seconds.

"The final match did not go as planned," Vlasov said. "I had to wrestle super hard to keep that one point scored. Patience brought the gold."

Patience and appreciation of each victory along the way are what will look to get him to the Paris Games, a lesson he learned from the Tokyo debacle.

"The last Olympic cycle I made the mistake of counting down the days to the Olympics," Vlasov said. "This time I just enjoy every title. Today I am the happiest man on Earth, tomorrow we’ll be the new day, the new qualification for the new world championships. "The Olympics are the dream of every athlete. I’ve been there twice, and I want to become a three-time Olympic champion. But it’s better not to go ahead of time."