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23:10 | Nov 30 | 2011

Gladiator from Yakutsk

Yakutian freestyle wrestler Victor Lebedev does not leave any chance to his rivals.

This is what they call the unquestioning superiority. Nobody before him ever managed to become the world’s best in the 55 kg weight category for two times in a row! And the Yakutian Victor Lebedev’s victory was without question – no fortunate lots or gifts from heaven.

A true victory machine! Just unbelievable mix of power, desire and technique further strengthened by an ideal physical preparedness. Invincible! The only of his kind and inimitable! How desperately we’d love our fellow-Yakutian’s winning run to continue both before and after the 2012 Olympics.

- Victor, some time has passed since you won the World Championship. Have you already felt, assessed and “spelled it out”?

- To tell you the truth, the 2010 World Championship in Moscow was more difficult, because the load of responsibility there was too high. I felt much easier in Istanbul. I came to the tournament in a good condition and I had no doubt I would win. I am happy I could make pleasure to my compatriots. This victory proved once again that my last year’s success was not accidental but a result of a correct systemic work that I had been doing with everybody from coaches, sparring partners to the massager and others.
- It is interesting to know what you felt when you knew the drawing results. Given that your rivals at the first stage were not that dangerous.
- In fact, I never look at the tournament schedule. I always come out to win, so I am not very concerned by who I am to wrestle with. At the World Championship there are practically no such things as journeymen. Especially when Olympic licenses are at stake. Believe me, I was ready to defeat any rival.

I am stronger than Velikov
- The World Champion Radoslav Velikov is a sine qua non at every big tournament of yours. You met him at the two last World Championships, as well as at the Championship of the Old World. Tell me true, were you surprised by the fact that he was the one you had to face in the final? Given that the Bulgarian was one of the oldest championship participants, and few mentioned him among the favorites.

- That is right, everybody thought that in the final I would wrestle with Mansurov, Yumoto or somebody else. But they all lost. They did not even make it to the top three. Since let me tell you Velikov is not an easy guy either. He has won more titles than anyone else in our weight category. After all, he is a World Champion and an Olympic medalist. I have met him as many as four times. So far it is 3:1 for me.
- On top of everything else, it was the Bulgarian that you lost to last time. Right?
- Yes, that was 18 months ago in Baku at the European Championship. As you remember, I later convincingly got my own back at the World Championship in Moscow. And in Istanbul I once again proved that I was stronger than him.

- As I was reviewing your wrestles it seemed to me that you were much fresher, much more precipitous, quick, powerful, set to fight your rivals. And at the same time your head remained cool, and you were fighting in cold blood controlling all the wrestles right through the final gong.

- That is true. I was fully in control of all my wrestles. Including the final. It is only in the second period, when I was leading 2:0, that I missed a leg shot and conceded a point to Velikov. I was not worried about that mistake since I understood I could increase the pressure. I was winning my points each time I wanted to. I could make the score bigger any time. But why should I play all my trumps? My most important wrestles are ahead. So there are a number of set pieces that I have not used. The situation allowed laying them aside till next time.
- This means you can do even better then?
- Of course. This is by far not my best. Wrestlers have to save their strength, since the schedule is very tough - all the wrestles take place on the same day. And intervals between the wrestles are very short. For example, the break between the quarterfinals and the semifinals is only 15 minutes.
- I noticed that during training sessions and sometimes before the wrestles you have your headphones on. Music is your way to relieve the stress?
- This is the way I set my mood and relax. I prefer the rousing songs of Lagantay, Victor Tsoy or Askalon Pavlov. I like very much the soundtrack to the movie “Gladiator”. It literally carries me along.

If I lose I die
- Your technical ratio at the World Championship was 31 won versus 2 conceded points. What is your assessment of the quality of your wrestling compared to the last year?

- Without question, I do better from year to year. Every time I try to improve my arsenal of sleights. The most important thing is that I defeated all my rivals in a fight, i.e. without recurring to a lots drawing.
- After the victory you thanked all your enemies for making you stronger. Why did you use the word enemies, not rivals?
- That was a figural expression. Since fighting for a slot on the national team is kind of a war. So to say, a war of characters and spiritual strength. I respect all my rivals, but when I come out for wrestling I sometimes feel like I am a gladiator. I convince myself that if I lose I die. This helps me. If you want to win, you always have to come out for any wrestle as if for your last battle.

- It is well known that you like to make a leg shot exactly fifteen seconds before the final horn. Everybody knows that, but they always happen to have nothing to do against the Lebedev’s “branded” sleight. How would you explain it?

- If they know a lot, the more they are fussing (laughing). This plays on my side. Normally I don’t look at the timer, all that happens automatically.
- The greatest boxer of the last century Mohamed Ali once said: “I hated each second of training, waking up early in the morning, but I said to myself: “Don’t give up, take pains now, and be a Champion through the rest of your life””. Do you agree with this?
- Partially. It is true that there are minutes when you feel tired of everyday training and endless camps. But if you have a goal, you must endure everything. Nothing is done easily. You have to work hard again and again. If you are fed up with everything, try to add colors in your life, diversify your circle of contacts. Change your life style. Especially in our days when there is a lot of ways to entertain you. For example, read a book with a sense, listen to music, or sit on “Vkontakte” or “Odnoklassniki”. I remember that when I was a child there were kids much more talented than I was, but as time showed, they just proved to be weaker in spirit. You must remember that no one is born a champion, you should become one.
- In freestyle wrestling there are no Olympic nominations per se. One can recall Khadjimurat Gatsalov, who, even after having won three latest World Championships, lost the 2008 Russia Championship to Shirvani Muradov and did not go to the Olympic Games. So, the whole battle is still ahead?
- Of course. You must not relax even for a second and keep working in the same way. I am confident that if we continue to work in the same cohesive way, we will certainly achieve our goal. I am sure that if I make it to the Olympics, I will not miss my chance.