From Wrestling to Politics – The Story of Aleksandr Karelin | Legends Live On


I was inspired by the words
of an academic by the name of Vavilov – “The best chance
you have of succeeding “is by putting as much as you
can on your shoulders.” (LEGENDS LIVE ON) (NOVOSIBIRSK, RUSSIA) Aleksandr Karelin is a legend. Three Olympic golds,
nine-time world champion and a twelve-time European
champion. Men like him are born
once in a thousand years. There’s always been this
fascination with strongmen. The fact that this monster
of a person came from one of the most
inhospitable places on earth, that made the myth even bigger.
He’s the Siberian monster. I first met Aleksandr
Aleksandrovich in 1996-1997. He was visiting our school. It was a meeting between
children and a living legend, everyone’s hero. I was born here in Novosibirsk
in Autumn, on 19th September. The first gym I attended
was a boxing gym because my father was a boxer. A coach who was putting
a team together came by. We were messing around during
our break and he took all of us and that’s how
we ended up in a wrestling gym. That’s how I met Kuznetsov. I was moved by his philosophy and that’s how I started
attending a wrestling gym. I met Aleksandr Karelin
in 1981. He was 13 then, 179cm tall,
weighing 79kg. A 13-year-old boy
with such a weight, I thought he would make
a good heavyweight wrestler. So I arrived at the gym. Kuznetsov convinced me
in five sentences. He explained to me
it’s the process of overcoming obstacles
that matters. Even these days he can go on endlessly explaining
all the moves. Move your arm towards yourself. Aleksandr Karelin and I
had a lot of things in common, things that are important
in sport – our personalities, the ability to work hard
and to focus at competitions. (OLYMPIC GAMES SEOUL, 1988) By unanimous decision of the
staff, my team and my captain, I was trusted to carry the red
flag of the Soviet Union. I could hardly think straight. Even to this day,
given how talkative I am, I can’t describe
those feelings. When the tournament began, the sense of pressure
had its effect on me. During the first few fights, I didn’t just walk out
to the mat, I leapt out on it. Just before the fight, I think
about how well I warmed up and if I’m not confident
in my readiness, I think about
how I can compensate for this. When you go out on the mat,
the most important thing is not to think about what
impression you give. Not to think about
the effect you produce but to think about what
you’re there for. Control not of yourself
but of your opponent. It’s necessary to drive him
into a vulnerable state. My favourite part of the fight is when you realise that you
got to your opponent. That you chained him,
imposed your manner on him. This is the sweetest sensation
from the fight. And by the time I made it
to the finals, the pressure was on. (SEOUL 1988 MEN’S GRECO-ROMAN
WRESTLING FINAL) I came out and attempted to do
the only move I could do and he caught me on the
counterattack and threw me over his back. With time running out,
I became flustered. Nevertheless, I still managed
to somehow do my signature move and that was enough
for me to win the Olympics. The throw for which Karelin
became famous was called the Karelin Lift. Rivals would lie flat hoping not to have anything
happen to them, he would reach under them,
holding this 285 lb person, doing the most difficult squat
you could ever imagine, he would pick the person up and
then throw them on the ground and that was the end
of the match. (OLYMPIC GAMES BARCELONA 1992) He didn’t just dominate the
world of Greco-Roman wrestling for 13 years, he terrified the world of
Greco-Roman wrestling for 13 years. The American wrestler
Jeff Blatnick at one point said it’s a victory if you don’t
get thrown by the guy. It was a very fast tournament
for me. Seven minutes for all fights. He was wrestling
at his second Olympics like it was just another
training session. He was so laid back and
confident that he beat everyone and became
a two-time Olympic champion. (OLYMPIC GAMES ATLANTA 1996) At the continental championship
in Budapest, I got a very serious injury. My greater pectoral muscle
was torn and the doctors told me
that in a year’s time I wouldn’t even be able to lift
a spoon with my right hand. The most important thing
was the final match with his main opponent.
Seeing as this was in America and his main opponent
was American, there was so much excitement.
The crowd was roaring. Ghaffari was running around
with a flag. In ’96, when I fought
Matt Ghaffari, we had a very difficult fight.
But I attacked, I did not counterattack
but attacked. The two gladiators,
ladies and gentlemen. Olympic champion, Aleksandr Karelin. What this guy has done,
this is unbelievable. He went through six years without having a point
scored on him. I mean, just think about that
for a minute. (OLYMPIC GAMES SYDNEY 2000) I was preparing for
these Olympics knowing this was my last one
for two reasons. Firstly was my age. I understood that
I was getting older, although I was generally
in good form. It was clear that
the preparation process was getting more complicated. (SYDNEY 2000 MEN’S GRECO-ROMAN
WRESTLING FINAL) I made an unfortunate mistake
and I did not have the emotional strength to
change the course of the fight. My father came to support me, along with a big group of fans
from Novosibirsk, but I lost. I still haven’t learned
how to comment on it. Part of what makes him
so appealing is that he is not what
you expect. He was a very educated man
with a PhD and a law degree. He had interest in ballet, he had interest in
classical music, and went on to have
a political career. I could no longer remain
just an athlete and that is when I realised that one can sit around
contemplating, but it is important
to act upon it. (PARLIAMENT BUILDING
NOVOSIBIRSK) I’ve always taken an interest
in the world around me. So the fact that I became an MP
of such a great superpower was an expression of
my citizenship. People were overjoyed
when he won because we have known a lot of
great athletes, but the fact he is so big,
tall, powerful, and that he represents
our country, and that he’s a Christian, it all makes you feel
so thrilled inside that such people are among us
and that they win. He is respected and valued
all over the world. Everyone loves him
in Novosibirsk. He is a role model for
everyone. We are really lucky
to have him here with us. Today you will be training with a two-time
Olympic champion in Greco-Roman wrestling, yes? – Yes.
– Roman Vlasov. Aleksandr always knew where
I was and what I was doing. Whether I was training
or at competitions, he was always there. This man has shared my Olympic
journey all the way through. That’s one of the reasons why
I dedicated my victory to him. – Thank you.
– You’re welcome. I hope that anyone, anywhere,
will look at my story and realise they can be
a champion. What a wrestler
from Novosibirsk achieved is easily applicable
to any other part of Russia. (LEGENDS LIVE ON)

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