Abdulrashid Sadulaev: Breaking new ground in wrestling

The Olympic champion is almost as dominant on Instagram as he is on the mat, having recently surpassed one million followers.

By Andrew Binner

Abdulrashid Sadulaev's wrestling profile is soaring to new heights.

The 86kg freestyle wrestling Olympic champion is a dominant force in his sport, having also won four of the last six world titles, and the two European Games gold medals.

This success has inevitably led to equally impressive numbers off the mat, with the Russian recently hitting one million Instagram followers.

In an age where large follower numbers wield considerable influence and commercial value, that makes Sadulaev a heavyweight in the social media world too.

Typically, the man nicknamed 'Russian Tank' due to his unrelenting style, was quick to downplay the significance of his cyber success.

"As you can see, I am not the most active user and do not attach much importance to numbers. For me it is a great responsibility and incentive to work. Thanks to everyone, I feel your support!" Sadulaev said on Instagram.

Humble and hard-working

Sadulaev's popularity stems from his success on the mat, combined with his humble demeanor.

While many football and basketball players show off their expensive cars and fancy holidays via. social media, Sadulaev's Instagram paints a picture of his relentless dedication to training, and devotion to his country.

Perhaps the photo that best summarises the grappler's personality, is one of him ploughing a field for his grandfather shortly before winning Olympic gold in Rio.

But like many elite athletes, the 23-year-old has still courted controversy.

He was recently slapped with a four-month ban from United World Wrestling for breaching protocol on wearing uniform with political slogans.

Fortunately for him the suspension was backdated, meaning he didn't miss any major competitions and remains eligible for the 2020 European Championships, 10-16 February in Rome.

European Championships

Since winning gold in Rio, Sadulaev has conquered new territory in wrestling too.

The Dagestani native decided to move up a weight class to 97kg, and promptly took the 2018 and 2019 world titles to shake off any notion that he might be compromising his supreme agility with the extra weight.

Unsurprisingly, the Russian team captain started the European Championships odds on to win a third-consecutive title.

Sadulaev v Snyder III?

United States Olympic champion at 97kg Kyle Snyder was the first man to defeat Sadulaev in four years, when he beat the Russian in what was anointed the 'Match of the Century' at the 2017 World Championships.

However, Sadulaev exacted his revenge in dominating fashion at the 2018 final, handing Snyder his first defeat at a World Championships for three years.

The Russian won gold again at the at the 2019 worlds, but the duo did not face each other due to Snyder's shock loss in the semis.

With one win apiece, a trilogy at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic final would be one of the most anticipated bouts in Olympic wrestling history.

But before wrestling fans get too carried away with the prospect of another rematch, both athletes still need to progress from their respective Olympic qualifying events.

Sadulaev's European Olympic qualifier takes place 19-22 March in Hungary, while Snyder will compete at the Pan American Olympic qualifier, 13-15 March in Canada.

Becoming wrestling's GOAT?

Given Sadulaev is just 23-years-old and the his dedication to his craft, it's difficult to see him not dominating freestyle wrestling for the next decade - barring serious injury.

The Russian has previously stated that he would never leave wrestling to compete in MMA.

Sadulaev's next big milestone is to win a second Olympic gold medal in another weight category, and to add to his four world titles.

If he's successful in doing this, then it's only a matter of time before his record matches that of Russian legend Buvaisar Saitiev, who racked up nine gold medals, including three Olympic titles and six world titles.

In the modern world of social media, where athletes have never been more accessible to their fans, and their achievements can travel even greater distances, one wonders if Sadulaev could also add another million followers to is Instagram account too!


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