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7 Mar, 2012 20:39

Two-time Olympic champion wrestler hungry for more in London 2012

A third straight Olympic gold medal is the main goal of Mavlet Batirov, one of Russia’s top wrestlers, as he prepares for the Olympics in London this summer.

Batirov was virtually unknown before the 2004 Athens Summer Games, but it took the Dagestan native just six months to storm to the Olympic summit. And four years later in Beijing, he did it again.“Everyone already treated me more seriously at the Beijing Olympics,” Batirov told RT. “So, naturally, I had to be more inventive. I had to use my head and brain to find a way to outwit my rivals. It’s very difficult to beat an opponent who knows you like the back of their hand.”Batirov began his international career in the 55-kilo category when he took the highest honor in Athens. He then moved up a weight to the 60-kilo class for his Beijing triumph. The champ’s next target is to reach the top of the podium in the 66-kilo class at the London Games.“I will do my best to win a third Olympic medal in order not to have regrets that I missed my chance,” the 28-year-old said. “Of course, it’s going to be harder this time because I’m older and my health’s got worse. My father also wants me to participate in London, so I want to please my parents too.”Mavlet’s father, Alavdin, is known throughout Dagestan as the proud safe keeper of his son’s sporting treasure and is clearly his biggest fan – almost never missing his son’s training ahead of major competitions, let alone the tournaments themselves.In fact, Mavlet’s international glory would probably be impossible without his father who’s dedicated his entire life to supporting his son.“Of course, I want him to improve on his achievements though his health is no longer that good,” Alavdin Batirov stressed. “However, any athlete has to make sacrifices like that. But he is still very young and Russian coaches know that he is reliable and if he qualifies, I’m sure they will not be disappointed.”Mavlet missed out the European championship in Belgrade and the preceding high-profile Ivan Yarygin tournament in Siberia, but the coaches in the national squad are still pinning high hopes on this wrestler, whose Olympic qualification hinges on the Championship of Russia in May.“I think Mavlet is the best candidate for the 66-kilo category,” Yury Shakhmuradov, Russia’s wrestling coach, said. “He’s the youngest and most promising wrestler. But he has to train hard. He has to win several competitions, though, including the Russian championships, but he has good prospects.”By the end of spring, Mavlet will know if he’s to get a third shot at Olympic gold. But, as in most sports, this superstar has to earn his place on the national team on his own merit.