Bristol wrestler Leon Rattigan wins bronze at Commonwealth Games
WRESTLER Leon Rattigan's bronze medal success was tinged with envy as he watched the gold medal play-off from the sidelines.
Barton Hill-raised Rattigan, who turned 23 in Delhi last week, said that while he was proud of his first Commonwealth Games medal, he was disappointed not to make the final.
After narrowly losing to Nigerian Sinvie Boltic in the semi-final of the men's freestyle 96kg division, he watched his opponent win gold four hours later.
"I've got mixed emotions," said Rattigan, following the medals ceremony.
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"I've got a medal, but I was gutted to lose that close semi-final.
"I've got to be happy, it's my first Commonwealth Games and I came away with a medal, but it was hard to sit back and watch the gold medal play-off and not be in it. I think if I was in it, anything is possible because you have more motivation in a final."
Rattigan showed his steel when forced to qualify for the bronze-medal match through the repechage, where he pinned Northern Ireland's Mark Montgomery inside the first minute to claim the bout.
Earlier, the British champion was the only wrestler to beat an Indian opponent when he downed Anil Maan in front of a boisterous crowd at the Indira Gandhi Stadium.
His efforts earned him plenty of support during his bout against Pakistan's Muhammad Umur for the bronze.
"I was confident I was capable of winning if I was at my best. While he was a pretty tough opponent, I think there was still a bit of anger in me after losing my semi-final."
Rattigan, who was introduced to the sport through Old Market's Bristol Olympic Wrestling Club as an 11-year-old, said he had endured a nervous week waiting for his moment in the spotlight.
"I basically sat in my room in the village like a monk, to conserve my energy," he said. "You sit back for a week waiting for your moment, wanting it to arrive. Then the nerves set in on the day and you wish you had extra time to prepare."
The softly-spoken Rattigan, who cuts an imposing figure at 6ft 4ins and 96kg, prepared for these Games earlier this year by training in South Ossetia – a war-torn disputed region within the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.
A long-running dispute between Georgia and South Ossetian separatists sparked hostilities most recently as 2008. Although fighting did not take place when Rattigan based himself there, he saw a good deal of the damage it had created in a country where living conditions are often spartan.
"A lot of people have a tough life there," said Rattigan. "The kind of people who can survive that are people who will excel in sport. After living there, India is lovely."
He said he would use his experience to drive him on in the European Championships in Dortmund next year and during his qualifying campaign for the London 2012 Olympics.