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Georgian Wrestler Hopes Federation President Down For The Count After Clash

Everyone saw that he hit me with a blunt metal object of some kind," Zurab Datunashvili said.
Everyone saw that he hit me with a blunt metal object of some kind," Zurab Datunashvili said.

Georgian wrestling fans showed up at the country's recent national championships and got a lot more brawl than they'd bargained for.

Zurab Datunashvili, twice a European champion in Greco-Roman wrestling, was left bloodied after a physical clash with the president of the Georgian Wrestling Federation following a controversial final against his rival, Robert Kobiashvili.

Datunashvili lost by referee's decision to Kobiashvili, who has also won a European Championship, in the January 11 men's 87-kilogram final and immediately protested to officials over the result.

Calm was eventually restored, only for a skirmish to break out between Datunashvili and Gega Gegeshidze, president of the Georgian Wrestling Federation.

Video from the arena appears to show the two confronting each other before Gegeshidze brandishes a metal object that he strikes Datunashvili with before the two are separated.

Datunashvili, who was left with a gash above his left eye from the encounter, told RFE/RL that the fight was sparked by animosity between him and the federation over his 2018 protest over coaching decisions he felt were unfair.

The incident has sparked a police investigation in the wrestling-mad Caucasus nation, and allegations of favoritism and corruption.

"I don't want him [Gegeshidze] to be arrested, I want him to resign. He's not man enough to speak the truth, but I feel that truth will prevail. Everyone saw that he hit me with a blunt metal object of some kind," Datunashvili told RFE/RL on January 22, two days after the police announced their probe into the fracas.

Gegeshidze did not speak directly about the fight, but he did tell local media on January 22 that Datunashvili's request was "baseless." "The president of the federation shouldn't resign over the unfounded claims of a disgruntled sportsman," he added.

Police officials say they have already questioned media, medical personnel, and spectators who were present during the altercation, though they have yet to speak to the two combatants.

Wrestling is serious business in Georgia, rivaling soccer, basketball, and rugby in popularity.

Traditional Georgian wrestling is considered a major element of the country's national identity and history.

The sport, known in Georgian as chidaoba, was added in November to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

With reporting by Niko Nergadze of RFE/RL's Georgian Service

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