Magomed Ibragimov avenges loss to create history

Mogamed Ibragimov competing for Azerbaijan (blue) beat Nicolae Ghita of Romania at the Men's Wrestling Freestyle heavyweight at the Olympic Games Atlanta 1996.
Mogamed Ibragimov competing for Azerbaijan (blue) beat Nicolae Ghita of Romania at the Men's Wrestling Freestyle heavyweight at the Olympic Games Atlanta 1996.

While winning an Olympic medal is a personal goal for thousands of athletes, for 24 nations it is a dream that has only ever come true once. Tokyo2020.org looks at the glorious moment and the impact it had on the lives of the athletes who achieved it.

The background

The Sydney 2000 Games will always hold a special significance for North Macedonia.

Wrestler Magomed Ibragimov not only won his first Olympic medal but it still stands as the only Olympic medal the Balkan nation has registered.

Ibragimov was born in Dagestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic and is of Avar descent which is one of the largest ethnic groups in Dagestan. He started freestyle wrestling, which was a popular sport in the region, in 1986.

Heading into the Atlanta 1996 Games, Ibragimov represented Azerbaijan and was considered a favourite for a medal after he won gold at both the 1995 and 1996 European Championships. But he would only finish fifth in the 82kg category.

However, following on from his performance at Atlanta 1996, Ibragimov would go on to represent F.Y.R Macedonia.

Mogamed Ibragimov competing for Azerbaijan (blue) against Nicolae Ghita of Romania during the Men's Wrestling Freestyle heavyweight at the Olympic Games Atlanta 1996.
Mogamed Ibragimov competing for Azerbaijan (blue) against Nicolae Ghita of Romania during the Men's Wrestling Freestyle heavyweight at the Olympic Games Atlanta 1996.
© 1996 / International Olympic Committee.

History in the making

At the 1998 World Championship, Ibragimov won silver. It was also Macedonia's first major medal since they gained independence from Yugoslavia. Then in the lead up to the Olympic Games Sydney 2000, the then 24-year-old won gold at the European Championships in Belarus.

Ibragimov, who competed in the freestyle 85kg category, was just one of 10 athletes who represented Macedonia at Sydney 2000. The wrestler won his opening two bouts in his pool to secure a spot in the knockout round.

While he defeated American Charles Burton, Ibragimov lost in the semi-final to eventual gold medallist Adam Saitiev of Russian Federation.

That meant Ibragimov was set to fight Islamic Republic of Iran athlete Amir Reza Khadem, the same man who had beaten him four years prior in Atlanta, and this time for a chance at a bronze medal.

After an intense battle, Ibragimov came out on top with a 4-2 win to snatch the bronze medal. As the referee declared the Macedonian the winner, a member of the coaching staff ran onto the mat to celebrate Ibragimov's victory as the crowd in Sydney cheered.

Ibragimov's bronze over two decades ago is still the only medal a former Yugoslavian state has won in wrestling.

Ibragimov becomes FYROM's first ever medallist | Sydney 2000
15:21

Life-changing impact

After his performance, Boris Trajkovski, who was the President of Macedonia at the time, recognised Ibragimov as the best athlete in the nation.

Unfortunately, four years later at Athens 2004, Ibragimov was unable to emulate his success from Sydney, finishing 19th in the 84kg competition after being eliminated in the first round.

Ibragimov represented Macedonia for 13 years, and at times still attends wrestling events in the country.

While North Macedonia hasn't been able to win another medal since Sydney 2000, hopes seem to be high heading into Tokyo 2020.

Wrestler Magomedgadzhi Nurov became the first athlete from the nation to secure his qualification for the Olympic Games next year after claiming a bronze medal at the World Championships last year.