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Monday Roundup: RUS Comments on Ban; Szoeke Out of European C’Ships

alex szoeke, hungary
Alex Szoeke -- Photo: Tom Pennington

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its resulting war that has captured the attention of the entire globe, several notable athletic sanctioning bodies moved to ban Russian and  Belarusian athletes from competition. United World Wrestling followed suit on March 2 with a lengthy statement that was intended to emphasize the concept of “peace through sports”.

The statement reads, in part:

“In order to preserve the safety of all athletes and the integrity and fairness of all its competitions, as a measure of reciprocity for all wrestlers prevented to travel and compete due to this situation, the Bureau carefully reviewed, and decided to align with the events protective measures recommended by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) in its statement of February 28, 2022: ‘In order to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants, the IOC EB recommends that International Sports Federations and sports event organizers not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions’.

“In this deplorable situation, the Bureau has decided that no wrestlers or officials belonging to the UWW affiliated and associated federations in Russia and Belarus shall be, with immediate effect, invited or allowed to participate in international competitions in the UWW calendar.”

The Russian side responded quickly, with its Olympic committee president Stanislav Pozdynakov saying “the ROC categorically disagrees with the recommendations of the IOC, and for its part intends to consistently defend the rights and interests of Russian athletes and provide all necessary assistance to national federations to challenge the discriminatory decisions of the relevant international federations.” Belarus, traditionally a very strong wrestling country in its own right, has yet to publicly comment on the matter.

Russia’s wrestling federation published a brief release that featured Pozdynakov’s verbiage — but bypassed mentioning UWW. Russia is wrestling’s most prolific and successful program in both men’s disciplines, and is highly influential regarding numerous aspects of the sport’s governance (and by extension, politics). Economic sanctions on the part of other nations (most notably the United States) as well as a litany of bans and boycotts across many industries have not had their desired effect. Friday will see Russia’s assault on Ukraine reach its third week.

Russia had three Tokyo Olympic medalists (competing under the Russian Olympic Committee banner) with multi-time World Champion Musa Evloev (97 kg) taking gold, and Sergey Emelin (60 kg) and Sergey Semenov (130 kg) both placing third. At the Worlds in October, Russia medaled eight athletes, including Roman Vlasov‘s third title. Kiril Maskevich (87 kg) was Belarus’ only placewinner.

Szoeke Officially Out of Euros

2021 World silver Alex Szoeke (97 kg, HUN), who got the nod over eventual bronze and American G’Angelo Hancock (Sunkist) in the Oslo semifinal, has been ruled out of competing at the European Championships in his home country later this month. Szoeke, 22, first sustained a shoulder tear during the summer of ’20. He later exacerbated the injury; and in November, the damage was deemed severe enough to warrant surgery, which he underwent just over two months ago.

Speaking to the Hungarian federation’s outlet, Szoeke said, “For my health, the most important thing now is patience. The main thing is that I will be in perfect condition, and by skipping the European Championships, I will have plenty of time to rehabilitate.” 

A year ago, Hungary had a wealth of options at 97 kilos with Erik Szilvassy still in the mix, but that has now changed since Szilvassy has seemingly re-committed to 87. Though not confirmed, Hungary’s next in line would presumably be Robert Ertsek, who finished fifth at the U23 World Championships in November.

The European Championships take place March 28-April 3 in Budapest. 

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