BEIJING (Reuters) - Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian threw down his Olympic bronze medal in protest on Thursday after his bid for greco-roman gold was ended by a decision denounced by the Swedish coach as “politics”.
Abrahamian took the bronze from around his neck during the medal ceremony, stepped from the podium and dropped it in the middle of the wrestling mat then walked off.
“I don’t care about this medal. I wanted gold,” he said.
A bitter Abrahamian, silver medallist at Athens 2004 who had high hopes of top honours in the 84kg competition in Beijing, announced he was quitting the sport.
“This will be my last match. I wanted to take gold, so I consider this Olympics a failure,” the 33-year-old said.
The Swedish wrestler had to be restrained by team mates earlier when a row erupted with judges over the decision in a semi-final bout at the Chinese Agricultural University Gym with Andrea Minguzzi of Italy, who went on the take gold.
Abrahamian shouted at the referee and judges then went over to their seats to speak to them up close. He angrily threw off the restraining arm of a team official then turned and left.
Swedish fans booed loudly as the judges filed out of the arena. Abrahamian said nothing to waiting reporters but whacked an aluminium barricade with his fist as he left the hall.
The gold medallist, who kissed the Chinese medal bearer after receiving his gold, said Abrahamian’s walkout “did in a way spoil the victory ceremony for me”.
“Certainly one can always question decisions made in the course of refereeing, but in sports it is appropriate to show sportsmanship and accept the results,” Minguzzi said.
Hungary’s Zoltan Fodor, an outsider who said he “never dreamed of reaching the final” won the silver.
The International Olympic Committee said it was investigating the dispute with the wrestling federation FILA, which Abrahamian said “does not play fair”.
“We are in contact with the wrestling federation to establish the exact facts,” IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said.
Abrahamian later said he believed his loss to the eventual gold medallist Minguzzi was “totally unjustified”. The wrestler said his friends “called me just 20 minutes before the (bronze) competition, begging me to compete”.
“I decided that I had come this far and didn’t want to let them down, so I wrestled,” he said.
Swedish coach Leo Myllari said: “It’s all politics.”
Myllari did not say if he intended to lodge a formal protest over the decision by referee Jean-Marc Petoud of Switzerland, judge Lee Ronald Mackay of Canada, and mat chairman Guillermo Orestes Molina of Cuba.
Additional reporting by Simon Denyer; editing by Keith Weir