All that Tamerlan Tagziev wanted to do was make his adopted homeland proud.
He succeeded in impressive fashion at the Commonwealth Games on Thursday.
The Russian-born freestyle wrestler arrived in Canada five years ago, and won his first international gold medal for his new country with a dominant victory in the men’s 86-kilogram division final.
Still trying to catch his breath after the match, Tagziev pointed to the Maple Leaf on his chest as the reason for his 14-4 manhandling of Nigeria’s Andrew Dick.
“It’s a big deal to represent our country. I’m proud of being Canadian,” said the 32-year-old who lives in Toronto. “I’m so happy that I can make all Canadians happy.
“I’m so proud. The national anthem [played] for me.”
Tagziev’s gold came on the heels Danielle Lappage’s earlier victory in the women’s 63-kg division and capped a great event on the mat for Canada on a day that also saw Brittanee Laverdure and Jevon Balfour win silver medals.
Canadian wrestlers finished with 12 medals – a Games-high seven gold along with two silver and three bronze – in Glasgow, tied with Nigeria and behind only India’s 13 (five gold, six silver, two bronze).
Elsewhere, Canada won three additional gold medals Thursday. Montreal diver Meaghan Benfeito won her second gold of the Games in the women’s 10-metre platform Gymnast Scott Morgan of North Vancouver, B.C., won gold in the men’s rings event, adding to his silver in the floor event earlier on the day, and Montreal’s George Kobaladze the men’s 105-plus-kilogram weightlifting event.
Canada is third in the medal standings after eight days of competition with 65 medals (27 gold, 13 silver, 25 bronze). England leads with 123 medals and Australia is second with 113.
In the men’s 63-kg final, Dick jumped out to an early 4-2 lead in the first round against Tagziev, but the native of Beslan, Russia, quickly countered to score 12 straight points.
“I knew I was going to beat him easy,” Tagziev said. “He surprised me [early], but I was sure I was going to beat him.”
India’s Pawan Kumar and South Africa’s Armando Heitbrink split the bronze medals.
Meanwhile, Lappage defeated India’s Geetika Jakhar 7-0 in the women’s 63-kg final to also cap off her first Commonwealth Games in style.
“It was awesome. The Games experience, the whole thing was just incredible,” said the 23-year-old from Olds, Alta. “The crowd was amazing. I’ve never wrestled in front of this many excited people before.”
Lappage and Jakhar got off to a tentative start in their bout before the Canadian scored six points in the second round to seal the victory.
“I think that I was just really nervous and hesitant to make a mistake at the beginning,” Lappage said. “As I warmed up I started to calm down a bit.
“There was built up excitement and nervousness. I feel relieved. I’m really excited.”
Cameroon’s Blandine Metala Epanga and Nigeria’s Blessing Oborududu won bronze.
Earlier in the day, Laverdure suffered a nasty hand injury in the closing moments of her loss in the women’s 55-kg division final to India’s Babita Kumari.
“I looked down and the finger was poking out of the skin,” said the 32-year-old Calgary lawyer, who shrugged off the pain to accept her silver along with bronze medalists Louisa Porogovska of England and Ifeoma Nwoye of Nigeria.
Laverdure, who also hurt her shoulder last year and only got back competing in March, found herself down 5-0 halfway through the match before falling 9-2.
“For me, it was a slow start because I shouldn’t give up the first four or six points because they take the points and shut down,” she said, before adding: “I’m happy with a silver.”
Canada’s other podium finish in wrestling came by way of Balfour, who dropped the men’s 65-kg final to defending Olympic bronze medalist Yogeshwar Dutt of India by a score of 10-0 in the first round.
“I knew he was a good wrestler,” said 19-year-old from Brampton, Ont. “I don’t know if that got to me or not, but he’s a good wrestler. Obviously he knew what he needed to do.
“I know what I need to work on. I need to train harder.”
Sampson Clarkson of Nigeria and Scotland’s Alex Gladkov settled for bronze.
Balfour said that despite the disappointment of his final match in Scotland, he was pleased with his first Games.
“My personal goal was to medal. If I didn’t medal, I would be pretty upset at myself,” he said. “I don’t like going to a competition, coming all this way, and not getting on that podium.”
Elsewhere, Benfeito won the 10-m platform with a combined score of 372.65 points, while Roseline Filion of Laval, Que., took bronze with 361.80. The pair combined for a gold medal in the 10-m synchro platform earlier in the Games.
“It can’t get any better than winning two gold medals at your last competition of the season,” Benfeito said. “I had a really tough morning in preliminaries. To come out on top is absolutely amazing.”
Filion said she exceeded her expectations to cap her best season internationally on individual tower.
“Coming out with 361 points and a bronze medal is absolutely amazing,” she said. “It was a tough competition with many of the world’s best and I’m pleased with my achievement. I just wanted to do good dives in the final and do a better score than in preliminaries. I knew if I did that I stood a good shot at a medal.”
Kobaladze won gold by lifting a Commonwealth Games record total of 400 kg – 171 kg in the snatch and 229 kg in the clean and jerk.
“I was more confident for the last lift than for the first attempt. I started slowly with a lighter weight, but when I saw I had a chance for a gold medal it became easier for me,” Kobaladze said. “It was always a dream for me to finish first, because my father was a very good weightlifter and I always wanted to show him I could become a champion.
“It’s the first time I’ve won at this high-level international competition. At 38 years old, I’ve used maybe my last chance.”
Elsewhere, Diane Roy of Sherbrooke, Que., won silver in the women’s 1,500-m T4 wheelchair, Alex Dupont of Saint-Rémi, Que., won bronze in the men’s 1,500 wheelchair and Christabel Netty of Surrey, B.C., won bronze in the women’s long jump.
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