Serbia's first-ever medal in Olympic wrestling will be gold thanks to Davor Stefanek.
Stefanek, the 2014 world champion, defeated Armenia's Migran Arutyunyan in the Gold Medal Match of the 66kg Greco-Roman wrestling tournament. The bout ended in a 1-1 score, but Stefanek got the win on criteria because he was the last one to be awarded a point.
This was Stefanek's third Olympic appearance, but he had never won a match — let alone a medal — before today. In 2004, representing Serbia and Montenegro, Stefanek went 0-2; in 2008, Serbia's first Olympics as an independent nation since 1912, he lost his only bout.
The gold medal is just the second ever for Serbia in any Olympic sport.
"From the moment I stepped into the competition, I felt like I would give all that I have," Stefanek said. "This is so special, and to be honest, I feel a little bit drunk right now."
Throughout the day, Stefanek was demonstrative in his celebrations. After pinning Georgian wrestler Shmagi Bolkvadze less than 90 seconds into their semifinal match, Stefanek turned to the crowd and shouted "Serbia!" before launching into a backflip. He again landed another backflip after clinching the gold medal in his next bout.
Prior to those matches, Stefanek also had to defeat the German who dethroned him for the 66kg world title last year. Frank Staebler beat Stefanek in the semifinals of the 2015 World Championships en route to gold, but Stefanek returned the favor in Rio with a 6-2 victory in a quarterfinal showdown between the division's two most recent world champions.
The Gold Medal Match was not without a touch of controversy though, at least according to Arutyunyan. Frustrated by the outcome of the match, he ripped off the bloody banadage wrapped around his forehead and threw it at the ground. Afterward, he blamed the referee for "unfairly" placing him in the par terre position during the bout.
"I did not lose," Arutyunyan claimed. "For some reason the judges again just would not give me the place on the podium that I deserve. It was the same at the European Games, the world championships."
"This is a catastrophe," he also said. "It was everything that I fought for for so long. I am very disappointed."
Arutyunyan's teammate, Artur Aleksanyan – who won gold in the 98kg division on the same day – weighed in on the situation as well.
"With Migran always such things happen," Aleksanyan said. "I am very sorry that he came second. He is a worthy champion. I think for everyone he is the champion, because everyone saw what happened [in the final].
Booing could be heard from the crowd at the end of the match, but Stefanek was unfazed as he did his backflip and then blew a kiss to the audience.
"To be honest, I did not hear [the boos] at first because the only thing I heard was my coach. Afterwards I heard the boos," Stefanek said. "A lot of times, my people have done that when I've lost a match, so that is normal."
The bronze medals went to Bolkvadze and Azerbaijan's Rasul Chunayev. Chunayev, the reigning 71kg world champion, had to drop down a weight class to compete in the 66kg tournament in Rio. He beat 2013 world champion Ryu Han-Su of South Korea by technical fall in his Bronze Medal Match.
"I was the last chance for the Greco-Roman Georgian team, [which] was a huge responsibility for me because everyone expected a medal from me," the 22-year-old Bolkvadze said. "I am happy that we now have a bronze medal."
66kg Greco-Roman quarterfinals
Stefanek (SRB) wins 6-2 vs. Staebler (GER)
Bolkvadze (GEO) wins 2-0 vs. Norouzi (IRI)
Arutyunyan (ARM) wins 2-1 vs. Ryu (KOR)
Chunayev (AZE) wins by tech fall 10-2 vs. Benaissa (ALG)
66kg Greco-Roman semifinals
Stefanek (SRB) wins by fall (1:26) vs. Bolkvadze (GEO)
Arutyunyan (ARM) wins 4-1 vs. Chunayev (AZE)
66kg Greco-Roman repechage
Inoue (JPN) wins on criteria 2-2 vs. Staebler (GER)
Ryu (KOR) wins 5-0 vs. Kahk (EGY)
66kg Greco-Roman Bronze Medal Matches
Bolkvadze (GEO) wins 1-0 vs. Inoue (JPN)
Chunayev (AZE) wins by tech fall 8-0 vs. Ryu (KOR)
66kg Greco-Roman Gold Medal Match
Stefanek (SRB) wins on criteria 1-1 vs. Arutyunyan (ARM)