It’s a tale of redemption for Mijaín López at the 2012 Olympic Games…
The 29-year-old Cuban wrestler took down Heiki Nabi of Estonia 2-0, 1-0 on Monday to claim his second consecutive Olympic gold medal in the men’s Greco-Roman wrestling 120 kg category at the London Games.
But it was López’s semifinal against Riza Kayaalp of Turkey that proved to be the most highly anticipated match of the day.
The wrestling world was left in shock and disbelief when Kayaalp beat the seemingly unbeatable Lopez at the 2011 World Championships. López had won world titles in 2005 and 2007, claimed the gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and then went on to the next two world championships.
But Lopez restored order to the heavyweight division he’s ruled for years by dropping Kayaalp in that semifinal match. He scored a couple of late points while on offense to win the first period. That set the tone heading into the second period, which also went to the “par terre” tiebreaker position. This time López stayed on the bottom, keeping Kayaalp from scoring on him. Kayaalp flailed wildly as he attempted to pick López off the mat, but nothing worked.
Following that redemptive win over Kayaalp, López believed no one else could touch him… And that proved to be the case when he defeated Nabi in the final in similar fashion to take home the gold.
“I think it was a really good fight,” said López, whose performance on Monday solidified his place as one of the great Greco-Roman heavyweights of all time.
With the victory, López becomes the third wrestler to win multiple gold medals at 120 kilograms, joining Russian legend Alexandre Karelin and Alexander Koltschinkski of the former Soviet Union.
Asked if he’d be back for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, López was noncommittal.
“I mean I am [almost] 30 already. I have three Olympics behind me. It is going to be a little bit more difficult, but life goes on,” said López.