NOVOSIBIRSK, Russia — Russian wrestler Alexandre Kareline, defeated at the Sydney Olympics for the first time for 13 years, received a hero’s welcome on Thursday when he returned home to Siberia.
Karelin was given the traditional ceremonious Russian greeting of bread and salt, a brass band, flowers and a military guard of honour when he arrived at Novosibirsk airport.
‘I am absolutely convinvced Karelin did all he could. There is no reason to talk of disappointment or defeat,’ Novosibirsk regional governor Viktor Tolokonsky told the waiting crowd.
Karelin, going for a fourth gold, was beaten by one point in the 130 kg final by American Rulon Gardner.
‘Thank you everyone who supported me, suffered with me, thank you to all local people for their backing and sympathy. Sorry for not living up to your expectations,’ Karelin said.
Karelin, who has nine world championship titles in addition to his three Olympic golds, has long been a source of pride to the 2.5 million people of Novosibirsk.