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Sport - Olympic Games Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Guenot breaks 84-year drought

— Photo: AP

JUMPING FOR JOY: Steeve Guenot after winning his gold medal.

BEIJING: Railway worker Steeve Guenot won France’s first Olympic wrestling gold medal in 84 years by taking the Greco-Roman 66-kilogram weight class Wednesday and denying Kyrgyzstan its first gold.

Guenot defeated Kanatbek Begaliev 3-0, 3-1 in the best-of-three format.

Minutes after Guenot won a gold his older brother Christophe Guenot won one of the two bronze medals at 74 kg.

France hadn’t won gold in any discipline of wrestling since Henri Deglane (82 kg) in the 1924 Paris Olympics, and Steeve traveled a lot further than that — and not by train, either — for this medal. He celebrated by performing a back flip, drawing big cheers.

“This is the most beautiful day of my life,” he said. “I don’t realize what’s happening. It’s the first gold for France (in Beijing) and I’m very proud. It’s a crazy stuff.”

The gold medallist drew a congratulatory phone call from French president Nicolas Sarkozy minutes after leaving the medal stand.

Winning the bronzes were Ukraine’s Armen Vardanyan and Mikhail Siamionau of Belarus.

Just as in the United States, wrestlers in France aren’t well-compensated and often work full-time jobs. The 22-year-old Guenot and his 29-year-old brother work for the national train system, Steeve in security, yet have become elite wrestlers.

Georgia’s Manuchar Kvirkelia won the gold medal in the 74kg Greco-Roman wrestling on Wednesday. The bearded 29-year-old swarmed all over China’s Chang Yongxiang, winning 3-0. Chang, 24, won silver. Yavor Yanakiev of Bulgaria and Christophe Guenot of France each won bronze medals. — Agencies

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