Russian wrestling legend may become all-time great in London
Buvaisar Saitiev is already a living legend in Russia’s Republic of Dagestan, but his achievements have all the potential to become near unreachable if he qualifies and wins at the London Games, as the 37-year-old freestyle wrestler is preparing for his fifth Olympic experience.
“All my actions today, whether I get on the team or not are all done for the benefit of wrestling. I have a very clear objective and I understand what is required from me. If I prove stronger than other guys then I will make the team. If not, well, I've never been afraid to lose. I will turn around and go home where I will be welcomed in any case, whether I win or lose,” Saitiev says.
While defending Russia’s colors is still his primary task, Buvaisar faces an entirely different challenge in his home town of Khasavyurt. With a population of around 100,000, this place probably has more Olympic Champions per capita than any other in the world.
Eager to keep that tradition going, Buvaisar Saitiev opened his second gym in Dagestan, to make the path to success a little easier for the next generation.
“Wrestling is very strong in our city because of traditions. We have many sport schools, and our kids have many opportunities which we didn't have back in our time; like, we had to practice in a vehicle repair workshop which we re-equipped with some mats,” he says.
Training alongside his older brother is the 2000 Olympic champion Adam Saitiev, who also made a comeback at the beginning of 2012 following a four-year struggle with a spinal injury.
While Buvaisar is yet to showcase his current form, younger Adam already proved that he is on his way back to the summit after finishing in second place at a high profile Ivan Yarygin tournament earlier this month. Adam is obviously also a regular at the gym which bears his family name.
“What we have is wrestling and that was always the only gym available when we were growing up. If you wanted to spend your time well or compete with friends of your age, you had to come to the gym and try to show what you were worth. When we were kids, we had no TV or internet and didn’t see any famous wrestlers. We were our own competition,” Adam explains.
The abundance of freestyle wrestling trendsetters in Dagestan today is the result of the local’s decades-long drive to excel in this sport.
The republic’s leadership is naturally open to any initiatives that compel youth to join wrestling groups or any other sports activities for that matter.
“It’s very important to develop sport among youth and we are not confined to sports of high achievements. We want them to be accompanied by development of children’s sport. The average age in Dagestan is 27 and kids make up half of the population. Our task is to create suitable athletic conditions for these young people for them to develop physically, culturally and morally. So sport is a priority in our policy,” Dagestan republic President Magomedsalam Magomedov says.
So while the government is doing its part to get youth into gyms, local Olympic champions Buvaisar and Adam are busy juggling a couple of hats each in order to stay in top shape in case of a call to the national team or noticing a brand new talent in their own gym.
Despite being an active athlete, Buivasar Saitiev is already ensuring that fine wrestling traditions will continue in Dagestan and the gym is his legacy for the next generation to follow.