Mijaín López has announced that he will attempt to make history in Tokyo by becoming the first wrestler to ever win four Olympic gold medals, besting “the Russian Bear” Alexandr Karelin’s record of three.
Ever since taking the top spot in Beijing 2008, Mijaín has maintained his crown in the top division of the Greco-Roman style event, going on to triumph in London 2012 and Río 2016.
To his three Olympic gold medals must be added five World Championship titles, which have seen him become a living legend of the sport.
“I feel in top physical and psychological condition and am consistently training. I’m a wrestler that likes to compete and win, it’s what I live for,” stated the super heavyweight from Pinar del Rio.
Mijaín, currently 35 years of age, will be 38 when he competes in the Tokyo Games, a reality which many believe will be an obstacle to the Cuban athlete achieving his goal. Mijaín’s experienced coach, Raúl Trujillo, however thinks otherwise. According to Trujillo, there is a big difference between López’s chronological and physical age, which is currently equal to that of a 27 or 28 year old athlete, and thus he should have no trouble arriving to the global event in optimum form.
“He just has to be disciplined, look after his weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle. He is a highly skilled athlete who can pretty much train alone and can reach peak form quickly,” explained his coach.
Following on from Río 2016, Mijaín will consummate his return to the mat during the Barranquilla 2018 Central American Games before competing in the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, 2019 and World Championships that same year, in order to secure valuable points in the ranking where he features among the favorites for Tokyo 2020.
“This is what we are focused on, the main problem will be the new regulations which are set to be applied in 2018, and will see athletes compete over two days and weigh-in just before the fights begin. I don’t think they’ll stick with the change, it’s bad for the sport and means that athletes will have to make a great sacrifice,” according to the three times Olympic champion.
Starting 2018, every wrestling division will compete over two days, with the qualifiers and knock-out stage on the first day, followed by semifinals and finals on the second. Meanwhile there will also be two weigh-ins: the first on day one of the competition and the second on day two, with a two-kilo allowance on the second. This system however, will make the whole competition more demanding on athletes.
“That’s how it works in the leagues where there is only one match a week. When I was in Germany for example, I talked to the trainers and they said: “We know that you are the best wrestler in the world, but under this new weigh-in system you’re not the same.” There I was able to defeat my rivals 10-0, but just barely, because of physical exhaustion. It’s difficult to compete in three or four fights to then have to lose weight again by the next day, with no time to recover. This is going to affect discipline, because almost no one will feel up to it, and I’m not going to allow myself to perform badly in any event. Mijaín López must be the same as always,” he stated.