Last week in Rio den Janeiro, Nijat Rahimov shattered the world record in the clean and jerk with a 214kg lift that cemented a gold medal. While fans expect that such achievements would have an emotional impact on the athlete, few expected the Kazakh weightlifter to break out the traditional Caucasus dance known as the lezginka.
Rahimov, who was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, is a naturalized Kazakhstani citizen who competed for Azerbaijan at the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics and the 2013 Junior World Weightlifting Championships. Given his cultural background is from the South Caucasus, it came as no surprise that Rahimov selected the lezginka as his celebratory dance.
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Though the dance is usually performed in national attire, it is also seen at wedding and any other forms of celebratory occasions. It can be performed as a solo dance or a male/female dance, where the woman plays the role of the swan, while the male attempts to symbolically lure her with his showy dance.
While most casual sports fans in the Western world may view this dance as alien, mixed marital arts fans will likely be accustomed to the performance given the amount of fighters on the UFC roster based in the North Caucasus (mainly Chechnya and Dagestan). In fact, even former UFC champion Frank Mir, Fabricio Werdum, and Chris Wediman performed the dance in the palace of Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov.
However, while Rahimov’s celebration video continues to go viral, it should be noted that he tested positive for anabolic steroids in 2013 and served a two-year suspension as a consequence. The Kazakh tested positive for oxandrolone and dehydromethyltestosterone during an out-of-competition test in mi-2013. Given that Rahimov was able to resume his career in record-breaking fashion, many of his fellow weightlifters are suspicious of the results.
“Maybe after some doping controls, some things will change,” said Egypt’s Mohamed Mahmoud, who won bronze at 77kgs.
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