Cuba’s Lopez dominates Pan Am Games Greco-Roman wrestling

              Cuba's Mijain Lopez waves from the podium after receiving the gold medal for men's 130kg Greco-Roman wrestling at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Three-time Olympic gold medalist Mijain Lopez dominated the heaviest Greco-Roman weight class again on Thursday at the Pan American Games with a fifth consecutive gold medal in the tournament.

It took less than two minutes for the Cuban to beat his Venezuelan rival Moises Perez in the 130kg category. His gargantuan size and aggressive performances on his matches contrast with his cheerful personality off the mat. When he’s not fighting, he’s all smiles.

“The most important thing that you can have is humility,” Lopez said after he received his latest medal and celebrated at the coliseum in the Peruvian capital draped in a Cuban flag.

It was a far more modest celebration than his Olympic gold at Rio de Janeiro 2016. Back then, he jokingly tackled his coach on the mat and drove the crowd wild moving his hips to a salsa-infused dance.

“I consider myself an idol because of the devotion and discipline that I give to every tournament,” said Lopez, who has also won five world championships and three silver world medals.

“This medal means something huge for me,” said the 6-foot-4 (1.96-meter) Lopez, who was also the flagbearer for Cuba at the tournament. “It’s my fifth Pan American medal and it represents the efforts that I’ve had throughout these years.”

Lopez also won gold at his Pan American Games debut at Santo Domingo 2003, and then at Rio 2007, Guadalajara 2011 and Toronto 2015.

His third Olympic title achieved in Rio put him in the company of wrestling great Alexander Karelin. Now he’ll be aiming for a fourth Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020 to cement his status as the best wrestler in history.

“I want to keep fighting for my country, my flag, my family and my teammates,” Lopez said. “That’s the motivation that is going to give me the results in the next Olympics.”


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