The setting: Semifinals of the 2nd OG Qualifier in Istanbul, Turkey with an Olympic spot on the line. The American, Jesse Thielke (NYAC, 59 kg) had already defeated two former Olympic medalists prior to this point but is now forced to contend with Donior Islamov of Moldavia. Islamov battled through his own obstacles to reach this critical match-up, beating down the likes of Dawid Ersetic before getting past the extremely tough Raman Bilici (TUR) on criteria.
It’s a contrast of styles. Islamov, cut more from a traditional cloth with a reputation for throws and front-headlocks, prefers to bide his time inside before going up top. The US product Thielke takes a different approach. He is just as apt to change levels on a dime as he is to counter into something spectacular of his own.
There aren’t many ways the stakes could be higher. Aside from either clinching a spot on their country’s Olympic teams or participating in a medal match at Rio, the importance of this contest cannot be overstated. Winner reaches the finals, which means they also punch their tickets for Brazil. The loser faced with regrouping for perhaps another chance in four years.