Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Croatian Wrestler Ivan Huklek in Olympic Semifinal!

August 3, 2021 - Croatian wrestler Ivan Huklek advanced to the semifinals of the Olympic Games in Tokyo!

Huklek defeated Uzbekistan's Rustam Asakalov 4-1 in the Greco-Roman quarter-final in the 87kg category,  reports HRT.

Huklek thus reached his national team colleague Božo Starčević, who also achieved the greatest success of Croatian wrestling by placing in the semifinals of the Olympic tournament. Starčević did not win a medal in Rio, and Huklek will have two chances to win a medal in Tokyo.

After achieving his first Olympic victory in the round of 16 against US Marine John Walter Stefanowitz by 5-3, he dominated Uzbekistan's Asakalov, a bronze medalist from the 2016 World Champs, in the quarterfinals.

"The first fight against the American was difficult because it was the first fight. Against the Uzbek, I felt I was superior; I realized that superiority and deservedly won. I fought him in Poland two or three months ago and lost, but I wanted him in Tokyo. So the coach and I agreed on excellent tactics against him," said the 24-year-old from Sesvete, who will meet Ukrainian Zhan Belenyuk in the fight for the final.

The 30-year-old Ukrainian is a big favorite for the gold because he is a two-time world champion and Olympic medalist from Rio.

"I've fought him twice already. He's a fighter just waiting for a fight on the ground, and I’m better at standing, so it’s going to be interesting and tense," Huklek said.

At the end of the fight, Ivan looked up and kissed the sky, paying tribute to his sister Marta (11), who passed away this spring, just a few days before Ivan's qualifications for Tokyo.

Ivan Huklel will compete in the semifinals around noon Croatia time.

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Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Wrestler Ivan Huklek and Taekwondo Fighter Ivan Šapina Join Croatia Olympic Team!

May 12, 2021 - The Croatia Olympic team competing in Tokyo this summer currently has 42 members from 11 sports. The last two to join them are wrestler Ivan Huklek, whose story is particularly emotional, and taekwondo fighter from Split's Marjan Ivan Šapina.

HRT reports a welcome full of emotions was held for Ivan Huklek, who did the impossible by winning a spot among the elite company of the 16 best wrestlers of his category at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

"I did not expect such a large number of people, but it means a lot to me because it is the support of those who follow me throughout my career," said Croatian wrestler Ivan Huklek.

And this accomplishment has additional importance because it was won after his family experienced particularly challenging times. Ivan's younger sister passed away about 10 days ago.

"It's hard for me to describe how I felt about everything that was happening. I’m happy, aware that I’ve qualified, but it’s not the feeling I thought I’d have," he admits.

"He found that motivation where he knew his sister was watching him from above, and I can say that, in that category, in that competition, where the Olympic winner has no norm, Huklek qualified in this masterful way," said Anton Djok, Ivan Huklek's coach.

Huklek is Croatia's second wrestler that will compete in Tokyo; he will be accompanied by the experienced Božo Starčević, who was close to a medal in Rio.

Ivan Šapina, a taekwondo fighter who won in the last second of his qualifying fight, also realized his dream.

"I didn't think about anything anymore; I just jumped, went to the coach. Emotions flooded everything, the entire coaching staff. I tried a little to explain to myself and understand what I managed, what success I achieved. So, the feeling is still fantastic," he says.

While some have been disappointed, martial arts representatives are recording historical results.

"We've never had more representatives in taekwondo. We had three athletes at the last Olympic Games, and we will have four candidates this year," says Dejan Mesarov, Ivan Šapina's coach. 

All athletes will have to know how to fight in the unusual conditions at the Games caused by the ongoing pandemic.

"Among them, there are athletes who can reach the Olympic podium, and I believe that in the psychological sense, they will withstand the pressure of these abnormal Games," said Zlatko Mateša, president of the Croatian Olympic Committee.

You can watch the video on HRT HERE.

The Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo from July 23 to August 8. 

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