Jackson's escape reheats Cold War Khrushchev-like shoe banging greets non-point, U.S. OT win

THE BALTIMORE SUN

BARCELONA, Spain -- The new world order still has some lingering effects from the Cold War.

The Americans and the Russians were fighting again yesterday. It brought back memories of Khrushchev pounding his shoe on the table at the United Nations saying he would bury the United States. It featured a guy nicknamed Ivan The Terrible, who had strong Middle East support from the Turks and Iranians.

A U.S. representative said the Russians were trying to use intimidating tactics, but they didn't work. Meanwhile, Elmadi Jabrailov cried while Kevin Jackson prayed.

And the winner was. . . Kevin Jackson.

Jackson, 27, from Ames, Iowa, defeated Jabrailov of the Unified Team, 1-0, in overtime to win the gold medal in the 180.5-pound class of freestyle wrestling.

The United States also had two other medal winners as defending Olympic gold medalist John Smith, 26, won another gold in the 136.5-pound class, and Chris Campbell, 37, won the bronze medal at 198.

But neither of those matches produced the controversy and emotion of Jackson's match, which at times seemed straight out of a script from the World Wrestling Federation.

Where was Vince McMahon?

"Good, now we can hate them again for a little while," joked U.S. wrestler Dan Chaid.

Jackson said: "I was disappointed how they [the Russians] acted. It made them, their country and team, look bad. They should have been more sportsmanlike. I'm glad I won the medal despite the crowd. Twenty years from now, people will only remember my gold medal, not the Russians or the crowd."

Jackson scored the only points of the bout with a double-leg takedown 1:54 into the three-minute sudden-death overtime period to win the match.

No controversy there. Jackson's move was quick, precise and he was totally in control.

But Jabrailov and coach Ivan "The Terrible" Yarygin apparently thought Jabrailov had been in control 63 seconds earlier when he attempted a deep one-leg takedown on Jackson, only to have Jackson slide out of bounds.

No points were given.

Loud boos were heard from the Iranians and Turks.

Blue sandals were thrown on the mat, but they weren't believed to be Khrushchev's.

Yarygin argued with officials for several minutes, but to no avail. The match was restarted and Jackson hit the move to win.

"I knew I was under the gun in overtime," said Jackson. "I knew that if it went three minutes and the referees had to decide a winner, I wouldlose. After that, I decided to pick it up and take my best shot. Plus, I knew his head was gone from what happened earlier."

Jabrailov was even worse immediately after the match. He cried and dropped to the mat like he had been shot.

Security guards rushed in to make sure the crowd didn't rush onto the mat. Jabrailov's older brother, though, got through and began screaming hysterically at the officials.

He was quickly joined by Yarygin, who at one point dropped to the mat to demonstrate Jabrailov's move.

Only if Jabrailov had done it that well. . .

Meanwhile, Jackson sat quietly on the mat and prayed. Minutes later, he went into the crowd to hug his parents, who were near the Iranians.

It was his gutsiest move of the night.

"Everybody saw it. It was a clean point," said Yarygin, who speaks English but used a translator last night. "Nobody had any hesitation that it was a point except the officials. He completed the move and the elbow was on the mat. We should have gotten the point."

The six-member selection committee rejected the appeal.

"The action has to be in the zone," said Mario Salentnig, one of the six members. "They were scrambling out of bounds and Jabrailov had no control. We have looked at it [on video replay] frame by frame. Our decision was unanimous."

Jabrailov was still upset and had to be carried by Yarygin and DTC another Russian wrestler to the ceremony platform to receive his medal.

Jabrailov kept crying. More boos were heard for Jackson. When America's national anthem started, Jabrailov's brother took off his shoes along with another Unified Team wrestler and they began banging them on the stage inciting the anti-American portion of the crowd to stomp and drown out the music.

Finally, Jabrailov shook Jackson's hand. He hesitantly took his medal and then stormed off the platform once the anthem was completed.

"He shook my hand because he realized that I'm not to blame," said Jackson, who pumped his fist and waved to the crowd during the ceremony. "I was out there trying to win a gold medal just like him. It was a referee's decision. They should have been more professional."

Jabrailov didn't show up for the post-match news conference, but U.S. coach Bobby Douglas did.

"It's just a case of the Russians trying to intimidate the officials for one point," Douglas said sarcastically. "Kevin was in no danger of being pinned or having a point scored against him."

Thank goodness Smith didn't have as much trouble.

Smith, 26, of Stillwater, Okla., blanked Iran's Asgari Mohammadian, 6-0, in their championship match. He said he was motivated by an earlier 3-2 overtime loss to Cuba's Lazaro Reinoso yesterday morning. The defeat had no outcome on Smith competing in the championship round since he already had a high number of positive points.

"It was the first time in my life that a match had no importance because either way I was going for the gold," said Smith. "That's why I screamed and hollered after I lost because I wasn't motivated. But it was different tonight. I felt like my old self out there."

Campbell secured a front head-lock and rolled Mongolia's Puntsag Sukhbat at the 7:23 mark to take a 3-1 win and the bronze. The United States finished with three golds, two silver, a bronze and one controversy, its best showing in the Olympics against Eastern bloc countries in the last 20 years. The Unified Team finished with seven.

"I said at the beginning that this was a good team," said Douglas. "They are now a great team, the best ever from this country. We performed well here at the Olympics."

And they kept their shoes on, too.

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