Iranian wrestling sensation Hassan Yazdani said he will not underestimate any opponent at the Tokyo Olympics.
Two-time world champion will be chasing a second successive Olympic gold when the men’s freestyle contests kick off in the Japanese capital on Wednesday.
When asked who will pose the biggest threat to Yazdani’s title shot, the Iranian said, “Every wrestler will surely participate at the Olympics with a high level of fitness, so I can’t afford to underestimate any opponent.”
However, the Iranian added he considers American David Taylor and Artur Naifonov, who will be representing the Russian Olympic Committee, as his main rivals for the Olympic triumph.
Yazdani has squared off against Taylor twice in recent years, suffering defeats against the American on both occasions – at the 2017 Wrestling World Cup in Iran and World Wrestling Championships in Hungary a year later.
Iranians had a disappointing start to their campaigns at the Greco-Roman event on Sunday.
Alireza Nejati, representing the country in the 60kg weight class, was beaten by Armenia’s Armen Melikyan in the first round.
Nejati’s hopes for a second chance in the repechage round were dashed after Melikyan fell to a defeat against Ukrainian Lenur Temirov.
Meanwhile, Amin Mirzazadeh, having overcome South Korean Kim Min-seok 6-0 in the first round of the 130kg contests, was outpowered by three-time Olympic gold medalist Cuban Mijaín López 8-0.
However, Mirzazadeh can still finish the Olympics with a bronze as López reached the final of the weight class.
The second day of the Greco-Roman event will see Iran’s Mohammad-Ali Geraei (77kg) and Mohammad-Hadi Saravi (97kg) begin their quest for Olympic glory on Monday.
Geraei, winner of two world bronzes, will face Cuba’s Yosvanys Peña, with the winner taking on either Bulgarian Aik Mnatsakanian or Božo Starčević of Croatia in the quarterfinals.
Saravi will battle Algerian Adem Boudjemline in the first round and a victory will see him square off against the winner of the bout between Kiril Milov of Bulgaria – world silver winner in 2018 – and Turkey’s Cenk İldem, who won the bronze in Rio 2016.