- © RIA Novosti. Vladimir Baranov
© RIA Novosti. Vladimir Baranov
MOSCOW, December 29 (R-Sport) - Four-time world champion freestyle wrestler Besik Kudukhov, who lost a gold medal match at the London Olympics last year, has died in a car crash aged 27.
The accident occurred early Sunday on a federal highway in southern Russia between the cities of Krasnodar and Vladikavkaz, the Russian Wrestling Federation announced. Kudukhov's car collided with a truck, a statement on the federation's website said.
"It's unbearably painful to talk about him in the past tense," said Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko. "This is a huge loss for Russian sport. Besik Kudukhov was an outstanding athlete; a kind, cheerful and energetic young man," he added.
Kudukhov was to be one of the torchbearers on the Sochi Winter Olympics torch relay in Krasnodar on February 4, three days before the opening ceremony.
He was born in Georgia's breakaway republic of South Ossetia, which Russia and a few other countries recognize as independent. He competed at the London Games under the Russian flag and was defeated in the final of the 60k+ category by Azeri wrestler Toghrul Asgarov, winning a silver medal. He also won bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games in the 55kg division.
Kudukhov won the world title in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Russia's roads are notoriously dangerous, with around 30,000 people killed annually.