ATLANTA -- If it isn't one international incident, it's another. The United States was matched up against another one of its political rivals in last night's 220-pound freestyle wrestling final, and the tight decision that gave Pittsburgh's Kurt Angle the second American wrestling gold of the day created another nasty scene, this time involving the delegation from Iran.
The night before, the Chinese women's softball team nearly walked off the field after a disputed home run that would eventually give the United States the first gold medal awarded in that event. Last night, at the World Congress Center, former 220-pound world champion Abbas Jadidi of Iran protested theatrically and nearly refused his silver medal after the judges awarded the deadlocked match to Angle.
The point totals were equal (1-1), and each wrestler had been penalized for passivity the same number of times, leaving the match up to the referee and panel of judges, who apparently chose Angle because the match ended with him in position to score.
It wasn't clear who won even after that decision was made. Jadidi tried to listen in on the judges conference and came away with his hands above his head, which raised a loud chorus of boos from the pro-American crowd. And when the referee brought both wrestlers to the center of the ring to raise the hand of the winner, Jadidi tried to force his own hand into the air.
The referee pushed it and raised Angle's, which brought the crowd to its feet and sent Jadidi running to the scoring table to protest the decision. He had to be pulled out of the arena by members of the Iranian coaching staff.
"I'm upset because they took what was mine," Jadidi said through an interpreter afterward. "I respectfully request that the press look at the videotape and say that I deserve the gold medal."
Angle and bronze medalist Arawat Sabejew arrived at the medal platform alone, which raised another chorus of boos for Jadidi, who was back at the officials. He eventually had to be pushed to the medal stand to accept the silver.
"What we did was leave it up to the officials," Angle said. "If you do that, you can't be that upset about the outcome. We both deserved the gold medal. If I had lost, I would have accepted it and shaken his hand. I know this is everything to him, but I thought what he did was very unsportsmanlike."
Jadidi said that the decision had changed his feeling about America, but was steered away from any further political comment by a fellow Iranian who was credentialed as a broadcaster, but clearly had an official role in the Iranian contingent. Jadidi also was mildly critical of Angle.
"I respect him as a human being," he said, "but not as a world champion or Olympic champion. I think that the gold medal that is hanging around his neck is mine. I deserve it, and he took it away from me."
Despite the disputed decision, the XXVI Olympiad is shaping up as an impressive showcase for America's freestyle wrestlers, which might be just what it takes to get beyond the tragedy that has cast a shadow over their sport.
Even now, the wrestling world continues to mourn the death of 1984 gold medalist Dave Schultz, who was allegedly shot by millionaire wrestling benefactor John duPont in January. Angle made sure yesterday that his friend was not lost in all the controversy.
"Dave has a big impact on everything I do," Angle said. "The people who are the most inspirational for me are those who aren't with me anymore -- my father, my grandmother, my Uncle Fred and, of course, Dave. I know that Dave is proud of me. I know his wife, Nancy, is proud of me. I now know how he felt when he won the gold medal in 1984."
Angle is the only Olympian who is supported by the Schultz organization, but he isn't the only member of the U.S. team with a connection to the late American star. Schultz was very much in the thoughts of Olympic wrestling coach Joe Seay when Oklahoman Kendall Cross, 28, won the gold medal in the 57-kilogram (125.5 pounds) weight class with a 5-3 victory over Giuvi Sissaouri of Canada.
"Kendall reminded me of Dave Schultz," said Seay, who recruited and coached Cross at Oklahoma State. "Both had no muscle. They were both just kind of out there, but had this big, huge heart. Every time I look at Kendall, I think of David. They didn't have all the tools the other kids did, but they were willing to work."
Cross apparently was well-prepared for Sissaouri, a native Russian who placed second in last year's world championships.
"I knew everything about him," Cross said. "I watched a lot of tape. From the start, I really thought he would be the one to beat for the gold."
Actually, the wrestler to beat in that class wasn't here. Cross defeated world champion Terry Brands in a tremendous two-out-of-three final at the U.S. trials. Sissaouri did not provide the same kind of challenge.
The gold medal match at 68 kilograms (149.5 pounds) did not go quite so well for the United States. Californian Townsend Saunders wrestled to a 1-1 tie with Russian Vadim Bogiyev and lost the gold medal because he was called for passivity three times to his opponent's two.
Pub Date: 8/01/96