The incredibly wholesome, joyful and confident nature of Cuban Greco-Roman wrestler Mijaín López has nothing whatever to do with the almost brutal force he unleashes on the mats that has deservedly won him three world champion wrestling crowns. It seems the nickname "terrible," given to him by his rivals, only applies during competitions while before, during and after the matches he is an absolute gentleman.
López, born in the westernmost province of Pinar del Rio, was the first in Cuba and Ibero-America to become, at 27, three time world champion in the most challenging of all divisions: the heavyweight (up to 120 kg). Not one of his competitors was an obstacle on his way toward the gold medals in Budapest 2005, Baku 2007 and Herning (Denmark) 2009.
In addition in 2009, he won the Pan American championship in Maracaibo, Venezuela and several European tournaments, as well as the Cuban championship and the Champions Gala. All this was in his favour for selection as the best sportsman of the year in Cuba for the fourth time.
His brill iant performance in 2009, 21 wins in 21 bouts, was also reflected in the 131 points inflicted over his rivals and only one to him. He is considered almost untouchable by his opponents. Not even the great Russian multi-champions Alexander Karel in and Khasan Baroev nor Chris Baumgartner of the US could stand up to him.
An example of the respect his opponents hold for him is illustrated by Russian wrestler Baroev's comment after his defeat by López at the finals in the Beijing 2008 Olympics. "Neither fortune nor luck helped him to victory. Mijaín is one of the best wrestlers in the world and today he was better than all of us".
In Cuba, especially in his native Pinar del Rio, he is seen as a simple and happy young man despite his awesome physical presence of two sculpted ebony muscular metres.
The beginning of his interview with Cubaplus was marked by short, terse answers, especially when speaking of his triumphs. This was not for lack of vocabulary, but because of his innate humility. When the dialogue turns toward his daily life, he seems a different person and conversation flows freely with jokes, laughter and the usual Cuban humour.
Above all, Mijaín is a true Cuban, of the soil, the water and tobacco, because of course he was born in the territory of the best tobacco in the world:
How does he account for his successes? "I train a lot. My coaches are very demanding but it is for my own good. If you are a champion you must show it always, because you are the one everyone wants to defeat in any competition."
"I listen closely to all the advice and then do my work rigorously. I am very careful with my physical training. I also take the necessary time to work on technique when I train with the team. This is a strong, rough sport, but if you want to win you also need agility, dexterity and intelligence as well. You can lose a match in the last few seconds because you followed the wrong strategy."
López´ daily physical training usually consists of 10 hours, divided into two sessions. He observes the required rest times: enjoying reading, watching movies, but most of all music. Because he jealously watches his diet he rarely has problems with his weight (he must not be over 120 kg when starting a tournament).
At present he is recovering from surgery at the Havana Frank Pais Orthopedic Hospital, where a team of special ists, headed by renowned Cuban physicians Rodrigo Alvarez Cambras, operated on both his elbows. According to Alvarez Cambras, he is making a very satisfactory recovery and the operations will not jeopardize his participation in the main events of 2010.
López is confident he can win the world championship for the fourth time this year or the next, or maybe both, "why not?" That would be the precursor to the London 2012 Olympics, where he would l ike to add another prize to his already long list of wins. He will be 30 years old by then, a mature age for heavyweight wrestlers.
Whether he achieves his goals or not, López appears headed to be the second Cuban athlete to enter the wrestling Hall of Fame, a place his fellow country man Filiberto Azcuy has already won - the only Cuban and Ibero-American to date.