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Gori Native Takes Wrestling Bronze

Georgia -- Bronze-medal winning wrestler Otar Tushishvili, 20aug2008

Georgia -- Bronze-medal winning wrestler Otar Tushishvili, 20aug2008

Gori may still be occupied by Russian troops, but the besieged city can now boast an Olympic medal winner after Gori native Otar Tushishvili took the bronze in freestyle wrestling in the 66-kilogram bracket on August 20.

Tushishvili says remaining focused on the competition was a challenge given the tense situation in his home country, and the continued Russian occupation of his hometown.

"To tell you the truth, all this time I somehow managed to at least sleep more or less well. But last night, just before the competition, I became very anxious. I just could not get rid of very bad thoughts, kept having nightmares all night," Tushishvili told RFE/RL's Georgian Service after winning his medal.

"So yes, of course these events in Georgia made things difficult for me. But on the other hand, it also gave me the stamina to prove myself, and to show the world that Georgians are people with a fighting spirit."

Tushishvili's bronze marks the Georgian team's fourth medal in Beijing. The country also boasts gold medals in men's Greco-Roman wrestling in the 74-kilogram bracket and in men's judo in the 90-kilogram category. It also won a bronze medal in women's air pistol shooting.

After Russian troops entered Georgia on August 8, the day the Beijing Olympics opened, Georgia considered withdrawing its team from competition. But in the end, Georgian Olympic officials decided to stay and compete.

Tushishvili said he "could not stop worrying about Georgia and my relatives, some of whom live in South Ossetia," and he was constantly calling home.

"My brother is the one whom I kept calling -- I don't know if he was telling the truth or not, but he kept telling me that everything was calm and everyone was all right," he said. "My mother and cousins have moved to a village in the Khashuri district, but my father stayed behind in Gori. I hear things are improving there slowly -- I really hope this is true, and that he is safe and well."

-- Brian Whitmore

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