You can keep your Michael Phelps and Nastia Liukin, as the Guardian’s Andy Bull is far more impressed with Bulgarian wrestler Stanka Zlateva (above), a competitor so feared, she allegedly won her nation’s championship when each of her opponents chickened out rather than face her. “Her thighs are like Bavarian hams,” gushes Bull, who presumably had to take a very cold shower after penning the item below.
I arrive at the lurid, Day-Glo gym in time for her second fight. Squat and stocky, she and her foe, the Spanish wrestler Maider Unda, spend the opening seconds of the round (each fight comes in three two-minute chunks) butting heads and swinging their paws at each other. Surprisingly the Spaniard takes an early lead, bundling Zlateva to the mat and prompting one bald journalist sat nearby to leap up and bellow: “fucking have it!”
Two points down at the break, Zlateva’s coach takes her aside and slaps her seven times in the face, while his lackey rubs down her arms. The Spaniard has made the mistake of making her mad. Hulk smash. Hulk smash. Tired of trying to gain a leg-hold, Zlateva lowers her head and shoulder charges Unda’s solar plexus, driving her down onto the mat. She then flips her over and sits on her back. Thrusting one hand into Unda’s face, she uses the other to grab her left leg and bend it upwards till it touches her lycra-clad buttocks.
The semi-final is even more one-sided. Zlateva does all manner of utterly unspeakable things to a Polish woman named Agnieszka Wieszczeck. Unlike Unda, Wieszczeck is totally unable to defend Zlateva’s attacks on her knees, which means she has to spend almost all of the fight being forced to eat the mat while her limbs are twisted into all manner of unholy forms.
In light of the above descriptions, we can only consider Zlateva’s defeat in the 72kg gold medal round earlier today at the hands of China’s Wang Jiao (who replaced ‘injured 06 gold medalist Wang Xu on the Chinese squad), to be an upset of US/USSR hockey proportions.