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Armenia, Georgia Score First Olympic Golds Amid Controversies

  • RFE/RL

Armenian wrestler Artur Aleksanyan celebrates winning the gold medal in the Greco-Roman 98-kilogram category at the Olympic Games in Rio.

Armenian wrestler Artur Aleksanyan celebrates winning the gold medal in the Greco-Roman 98-kilogram category at the Olympic Games in Rio.

Several countries – including Armenia, Georgia, Serbia, and Ukraine – scored their first gold medals of the Rio Olympic games on August 16, although some of the events did not pass without controversy.

Armenian Artur Aleksanian beat Cuba's Yasmany Daniel Lugo Cabrera to take the gold in the 98-kilogram wrestling final.

Aleksanian's win was Armenia's first Olympic gold medal in two decades and only its second since it began competing as an independent country after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Aleksanian raised eyebrows at the awards ceremony by wearing a shirt featuring a portrait of an Armenian soldier who was killed during fighting with neighboring Azerbaijan in April.

"I dedicate my victory to the Armenian soldiers who defend the borders and all those who fell in the [1990s war with Azerbaijan over that country’s breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region]," he said later.

Georgian weightlifter Lasha Talakhadze on August 16 took the gold medal in the men’s over 105-kilogram category.

WATCH: With Russians Out, Georgian Weightlifter Sees Clear Path To Gold (Published August 12, 2016)

The Iranian favorite, Behdad Salimkordasiabi was disqualified after judges said he failed to fully extend one arm in the clean and jerk.

Iranian coach Sajjad Anoushiravani called the ruling a "conspiracy" by "our enemies," possibly referring to an Iraqi judge.

Ukraine's Oleh Vernyayev has won his country's first gold medal at the Rio Summer Olympics by taking the parallel bars in men's gymnastics.

Vernyayev edged out American Danell Leyva for the gold, while Russian David Belyavsky finished third to take the bronze.

It was Vernyayev's second medal in Rio, as he won a silver last week in the men's all-around competition.

On the wrestling mats, Davor Stefanek won Serbia's first gold of these Olympics on August 16 when he defeated Armenian Migran Arutyunian in the 66-kilogram limit of the Greco-Roman wrestling competition.

Arutyunian disputed the judges' decision, however.

"I did not lose. For some reason the judges again just would not give me the place on the podium that I deserve," he said.

"It was the same at the European Games, the world championships. I am so disappointed. I have worked so hard for many years."

Georgian Shmagi Bolkvadze and Azerbaijani Rasul Chunayev each won the bronze medal in the competition.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Armenian Service, AP, and Reuters
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