AS Alex Gladkov attempted to share his thoughts with the press on his bruising, brutal, bronze-earning victory in the men’s wrestling freestyle 65kg category in Glasgow 2014, he could hardly stand, or speak.
His right knee, heavily strapped, was injured, and his mouth, teeth reddened by blood, was also wounded. Yet, the 28-year-old, originally from Ukraine, was bursting with pride at what his body-breaking efforts would mean to a grandfather, Leonid, personally affected by the on-going conflict in the region.
Gladkov, whose father Vladimir was in his corner at the SECC, resettled his family in the Commonwealth Games host nation because he was given the opportunity to coach wrestling in the country. Yesterday was the culmination of Vladimir’s efforts as his 28-year-old son overcame Sri Lankan Chamara Perera in a contest that the wrestler declared “one of the best fights I have ever had”.
It also proved the most punishing, Gladkov revealing he had “never been in such bad condition after a fight” in which he eventually prevailed
22-16. “It is amazing. I can barely speak, my mouth is so dry and my knee is so painful, but I feel fantastic,” he said.
It seemed that Gladkov would score a quick, relatively pain-free victory when he rolled his opponent right across the mat and appeared to have the 10-point advantage that brings an instant decision. “I was trying to finish it early, but for some reason the referees decided to give two points to my opponent and then I had to go the whole six minutes,” he said. “I am so happy and really grateful for the crowd, I could feel their support and it helped a lot. I have never competed in really big competitions before, but have been training for so many years. To win a bronze medal is not the best result, but I am really happy for it.”
Gladkov needed every possible support, including bandages wound round his injured limb. Little over two minutes in, that required the bout to be temporarily halted for him to be patched up after his knee buckled and then appeared to balloon. Late in the contest the Sri Lankan appeared to be seeking to yank his leg right off.
“During the break [at the end of round one] my dad just said, ‘Hold on, you can win it’. I did not really believe him at the time, but then I just got it all together,” he said. “The crowd were so supportive, I don’t know where all the pain went. I am so happy and that I could get my dad the result he wanted, so everything worked out well.”
Indeed it did, not just for his dad but also for his mother Eleanor’s father Leonid. Originally from Lugansk on the eastern border, where the bronze winner was born, as of recent days he no longer resides there. “My mum asked me to bring a medal back for my grandad. He is currently in Russia, as he left Ukraine a week ago because the bombing and shooting was so bad,” the adopted Scot explained. “I am going to send her the pictures and hopefully I can share a bit of my happiness with my grandad, because he did not have much of that in the last few months.”
In essence, Gladkov considered his medal as belonging to three nations. “As one of my friends said, Russia and Ukraine is my country where I am from, but Glasgow and Scotland is my home,” he said.
Earlier, Scot Kathryn Walsh missed out on bronze in the women’s freestyle 55kg category when she was beaten 4-2 in a cat-and-mouse contest with England’s Louisa Porogovska. Walsh, who moved to wrestling after starting out scrapping in cage fighting and martial arts, was still able to reflect on a phenomenal Games experience.
“I really enjoyed the fight and the atmosphere the crowd created was amazing. I stuck with wrestling when I first started to do it because I wasn’t any good of it, and I’m going to stick with it to get even better.”
The final session of the event couldn’t have gone much better for Canada as they claimed three golds and two silvers. India, though, in snaring two golds and a silver, just managed to edge their major rivals in the overall medals table for the event.
Canada’s Tamerlan Tagziev proved too strong for Nigeria’s Andrew Dick in the men’s freestyle 65kg category, with a compelling performance delivering him a 14-4 success. In the women’s freestyle 63kg event, his fellow Canadian Danielle Lappage was even more commanding, failing to give India’s Geetika Jakhar a sniff in a 7-0 victory. The Indians turned the table in the other two events, however. Yogeshwar Dutt proved too strong for Canada’s Jevon Balfour in the men’s freestyle 65kg, while in the women’s freestyle 55kg category, the classy India Babita Kumari was a popular 9-2 winner over Brittanee Laverdure of, you’ve guessed it, Canada.
Although Canada finished with two more golds than India, seven to their adversaries’ five, India claimed first place because their overall 13-medal haul was one more than that achieved by the Canadians. Scotland, with two bronze medals, equalled their best total in 16 years, the 1994 games in Victoria, Canada, the last time they had any
competitors on the winners’ podium