Lawrence ends wrestling medal drought

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Ian Chadband / AAP News

 

With his victory, Lawrence becomes the first Australian male wrestler in 12 years to win a Commonwealth Games medal.

 

Jayden Lawrence has edged a classic battle for bronze to end Australia’s 12-year men’s wrestling medal drought at the Commonwealth Games – and he did it heroically on “one-and-a-half legs”.

The 27-year-old from flood-hit Camden, NSW, revealed that he’d achieved the feat at Coventry Arena while suffering from a serious knee injury.

He’d had to hold on to his young South African opponent Edward Lessing’s leg for grim life while his own really hurt in the denouement to the 86kg freestyle event, desperate to cling on to his 12-11 triumph in a free-scoring bout full of controversial scores.

He’d got injured in his previous bout, a painful defeat by Pakistan’s Muhammad Inam, so effectively was seriously inconvenienced for one-and-a-half contests.

“I tore my ACL. I was a bit knackered there. In five minutes, I will not be able to walk,” he told Seven.

Later he told reporters, “My last two fights I was battling on one-and-a-half legs. It’s unbelievable, I’m stoked.”

After winning, Lawrence, in his third Games, laid exhausted on the mat, head in hands while celebrating becoming the first Aussie male wrestler to win a Games medal since Ivan Popov won gold in the men’s 120kg Greco Roman event in Delhi in 2010.

Emily Bensted took silver in the women’s 55kg freestyle and Hassan Shahsavan also won bronze in those Games.

“This is what Australian wrestling has been after,” said the one-time cabinetmaker who now acts as wrestling coach in Sydney.

“I’ve given up a lot to do this sport but it’s so worth it. We don’t get paid too much – in fact we get nothing – but I’d do it again.”

At the moment, wrestling is not scheduled to be in the next Games in Melbourne but Lawrence hopes his medal could help prompt a change of heart.

“I always thought I’d get there – keep at it keep at it,” added the man who’d missed out in his last two attempts.

Lawrence, who’d earlier outclassed Singapore’s Weng Ch ow 10-0 before finding Pakistan’s Inam too much of a handful in an 8-3 defeat, defied th e injury but came under huge pressure from Lessing.

It was an emotional moment for Lawrence, who also reflected on how his Camden home had been repeatedly affected by floods.

“There was COVID, the floods and, even before that, the drought at my parents’ farm. I just keep my head down and get on with it.”

Earlier, six-time national champion Irene Symeonidis also had a chance of winning a medal in the women’s 57kg class but the 30-year-old IT specialist from Melbourne was soundly beaten 10-0 by brilliant 18-year-old Sri Lankan Nethmi Poruthotage.

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