Adeline Gray after her Olympic semifinal win (Photo courtesy of Larry Slater; LBSphoto.smugmug.com)
The first day of wrestling competition at the 2020 Olympic Game wrapped up in style as American Adeline Gray pushed through into the finals at 76 kg. Gray, a five-time world champion, still has her hopes of winning an Olympic gold medal alive after surviving a 3-2 scare against Kyrgyzstan's Aiperi Medet Kyzy.
Gray got on the scoreboard first with a point after a shot clock violation from Medet Kyzy. She continued to put the action and sunk in a pair of underhooks, threw them by and was ready to live Medet Kyzy at the edge of the mat. Medet Kyzy wisely chose stepping out of bounds rather than risk surrendering two, or perhaps, even four points from Gray's action. The match would go into the break with the American holding a 2-0 lead.
In the second period, Medet Kyzy turned up the heat and got in on a leg attack. Gray deftly countered and the pair engaged in a quick scramble. After they went out of bounds, the Kyrgyzstani corner challenged the sequence in hopes of a takedown getting awarded to Medet Kyzy. No takedown was seen or awarded and Gray received an extra point for the lost challenge. That point proved to be huge as Medet Kyzy continued to attack and racked up a takedown in the ensuing restart. She nearly had a leg lace locked up, but Gray was able to stop any further scoring. With less than 20 seconds remaining when the two were brought to their feet, Gray was able to hold off the late charge from Medet Kyzy and win 3-2.
The win puts Gray into the Olympic finals for the first time. She is the only American wrestler with five world championships and her place in American wrestling history is already secure. A gold medal would be the cherry on top of a remarkable career.
Standing in Gray's way will be German veteran Aline Rotter Focken. The 30-year-old Rotter Focken has already stated that the Olympic Games will be her last competition. She and Gray met in the 2019 World Championships in a bout won by Gray, 5-2.
Though Gray was the only American in action this session, there was more good news for the American contingent. With a win by Cuba's Luis Orta Sanchez in the 60 kg Men's Greco-Roman semifinals, Ildar Hafizov was brought back into repechage. Orta Sanchez has been one of the stories of day one. He edged 2018 world champion Sergey Emelin (ROC) in the quarters before dominating world silver medalist Victor Ciobanu (Moldova) in the semis, 11-0.
Hafizov will take on Emelin in repechage before the next session gets underway. If he wins, he locks up a spot in the bronze medal match, opposite Ciobanu.
Orta Sanchez is one of two Cuba's in the Olympic finals, as legendary big man Mijain Lopez won his supermatch against Riza Kayaalp (Turkey), 2-0. Lopez is in a position to win his fourth gold medal, a feat that has never been accomplished at the Greco-Roman level. Both he and Kayaalp have accounted for nine World/Olympic titles and were seen as the top-tier at 130 kg. Orta Sanchez will try to win his gold medal, taking on the top-seed and 2019 world champion Kenichiro Fumita (Japan).
60 kg - Kenichiro Fumita (Japan) over Lenur Temirov (Ukraine) 5-1
60 kg - Luis Orta Sanchez (Cuba) over Victor Ciobanu (Moldova) 11-0
130 kg - Mijain Lopez (Cuba) over Riza Kayaalp (Turkey) 2-0
130 kg - Iakobi Kajaia (Georgia) over Yasmani Acosta Fernandez (Chile) 1-1
76 kg - Adeline Gray (USA) over Aiperi Medet Kyzy (Kyrgyzstan) 3-2
76 kg - Aline Rotter Focken (Germany) over Hiroe Minagawa (Japan) 3-1