The Iranian wrestler was cruising through the match, looking like a sure bet to defeat his Russian opponent. But suddenly, as if suffering an injury, he fell to the mat and was thrown around the ring like a rag doll by the surprised Russian. Finally, the match ended and the referee pronounced the Russian the winner.
But the Iranian wrestler was not injured. As Iranian news outlets reported on Tuesday, he said his real problem was that his coach had told him to throw the match to avoid facing an Israeli opponent in the next round of the tournament.
In Iran’s hard-line ideology, Israel is not recognized as a state, and supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei often refers to the country as “a cancerous tumor.” Iranian athletes are forbidden to compete with Israelis in any sport, and, if necessary, are told to forfeit their matches or to feign sickness.
The wrestler, Alireza Karimi-Machiani, 23, can be seen in blue in the video below, taking on Alikhan Zhabrailov, a Russian, on Saturday at the U23 World Senior Wrestling Championship in Poland. (Begin video at 5:50.)