North Caucasus warriors decide who is best

One of the proudest moments in southern Russia's sporting heritage has come to a close - the inaugural Caucasus Games wrapped up a wholly memorable event for the region.

Proud warriors came together to test their strength against each other. The southern Russian republic of Karachay-Cherkessia was the host with teams from five neighboring areas – Dagestan, Ingushetiya, Chechnya, North Ossetia and Stavropol Kray – making up the field.

Over 200 athletes were on hand to compete in locally favored events such as tug-of-war and powerlifting. There were also more specialized events, such as stilt walking.

“The main goal of this festival is to bring the people of the Caucasus together, let them meet, communicate and make friends,” said Buvaysar Saitiev, three-time Olympic champion freestyle wrestler, who attended the event. “It's like a cultural exchange and all of us should unite for the sake of peace.”

Throughout Russia, and indeed, globally, the region is renowned as a wrestling powerhouse. And the inaugural Caucasus Games brought back to life an ancient way of settling scores – belt wrestling – a sport, which was warmly welcomed by fans and participants alike.

“I've already practiced judo for ten years, while belt wrestling is a completely new experience for me. But I liked it very much. Truly a man's sport, where you should be strong, smart and persistent,” said competitor, Ferdinand Karapetyan.

Arm wrestling is probably one of the simplest ways to find out who is the strongest. The 2009 European champion in the 55 kilogram weight category, Arsen Chomayev, went into the event as one of the favourites, despite being paired against men a full ten kilos heavier. No problem though, as he went over the top against all challengers.

“It was tough against the bigger guys. But I was ready for that. In any sport, and in arm wrestling in particular, if you've got the will and train hard – you can beat anyone,” Chomayev said afterwards.

Local team Karachay-Cherkessia claimed overall victory at the Games, meaning next year the festival will be held in the same place.

The organizers have already promised that in 2011 the number of sports represented at the Games will increase.

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