London 2012 silver medallist Arsen Julfalakyan returns under new flag. UWW

2012 Olympic runner-up and former world champion Arsen Julfalakyan, 36, has set his sights on Paris 2024 after changing his nationality.

Representing Armenia, Greco-Roman wrestler Julfalakyan won almost everything in his long career. He became European champion in Vinlius at the age of 22. He won silver and bronze medals at the 2010 and 2011 World Championships, and was one of the favourites for gold in London. 

Julfalakyan's career peaked in 2012 when he reached the final and lost to Russia's Roman Vlasov. His rivalry with Vlasov continued into the new Olympic cycle, with the Armenian finally claiming the world gold in 2014, but he sensationally losing his first bout at Rio 2016. 

Despite the defeat, Julfalakyan continued his pursuit of Olympic gold and was eager to compete at Tokyo 2020, winning bronze at the 2019 European Championships, but Armenia's coaching staff decided to bring his main rival Karapet Chalyan to the World Championships. 

The letter claimed an Olympic quota for Armenia, and although the quotas are for the country, the coaching staff announced in early 2020 that it would be Chalyan who will prepare for Tokyo 2020. On 12 July 2021, Julfalakyan, who had already entered politics and was a member of the Armenian National Assembly from 2018-20, announced the end of his career.

Arsen Julfalakyan (left) with his 74kg Greco-Roman silver medal at London 2012. GETTY IMAGES
Arsen Julfalakyan (left) with his 74kg Greco-Roman silver medal at London 2012. GETTY IMAGES

Arsen Julfalakyan has been elected as a Chairman of the United World Wrestling Athletes' Commission. He is also a member of the UWW Bureau Member. But now he is back on the mat to represent Argentina from 2024, as Armenia now has European and World champion Malkhas Amoyan in the same weight category. 

Without making an official announcement, Julfalakyan took part in the Grand Prix de France Henri Deglane 2024, in Paris over the weekend and made an impressive journey to the final of the 77kg weight category, where he eventually lost to Denmark's Oliver Krüger. 

Julfalakyan's dream of competing in his fourth Olympics could come true if he manages to qualify at the 2024 Pan American Qualifying Tournament, which will be held in the Mexican city of Acapulco from 28 February to 1 March. In fact, he will be one of the main contenders for the Olympic quota in Mexico. 

Meanwhile the Georgian team won 8 gold medals out of 10 at the Grand Prix de France Henri Deglane 2024. Giorgi Tokhadze (55 kg), Romeo Beridze (60 kg), Rati Khozrevanidze (63 kg), Giorgi Chkhikvadze (72 kg), Gela Bolkvadze (82 kg), Gurami Khetsuriani (87 kg), Robert Kobiashvili (97 kg) and Saba Chilashvili (130 kg). Only Krüger and France's Tigran Galustyan (67 kg) were able to break the Georgian dominance in the Greco-Roman style.

Georgia's Lasha Gobadze finished second at the Henri Deglane 2024 Grand Prix de France. UWW
Georgia's Lasha Gobadze finished second at the Henri Deglane 2024 Grand Prix de France. UWW

One of the main rivalries of the tournament was between 2019 World champion Lasha Gobadze (Georgia) and 2022 European champion and former world silver medallist Turpan-Ali Bisultanov in the semi-finals of the -87kg category. The Georgian won 3-2 to advance to the final, where he lost to fellow countryman Khetsuriani. 

In the men's freestyle wrestling it was a predicted win for Greece's Dauren Kurugliev (86 kg), a European champion from 2023. The USA won four gold medals through Aden Valencia (65 kg), Camden McDanel (92 kg), Michael Macchiavello (97 kg) and Hayden Zillmer (125 kg). 

France's Arman Eloyan and Seyfulla Itaev won the competitions in 65 and 70 kg weight categories respectively. Roman Bravo-Young (Mexico) took gold in the 57 kg weight category, Mohammad Mottaghinia (Spain) was the best in the 74 kg weight category and Pouria Taherkhani (Germany) defeated all his opponents in the 79 kg weight category. 

The main star of the women's competition - two-time European champion Jonna Malmgren of Sweden, claimed gold in the 53 kg weight category. Brazilian 2023 Pan American Games champions Giullia Penalber (57kg) and Lais Nunes (62kg) were joined by their compatriot Thamires Machado (72kg) to win gold medals in their respective weight categories. 

The USA won two gold medals thanks to Kaylynn Albrecht (68 kg) and Yelena Makoyed (76 kg). The other gold medals in the women's competition went to Katie Dutchak (50 kg) of Canada and Iris Thiébaux (65 kg) of France.