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Britain’s wrestling medal hopes squashed

Great Britain’s Olga Butkevych (in red) has the upper hand temporarily over Ecuador’s Lissette Antes Castillo.

Britain’s lone wrestler at the London Olympics, Olga Butkevych, lost in the first round of the women’s 55kg freestyle today to Ecuador’s Lissette Alexandra Antes Castillo, ending hopes of the nation’s first wrestling medal in nearly 30 years and raising questions about funding for the sport.

Ukraine-born Butkevych, who received her British passport only in May, has been labelled a “Plastic Brit” — an overseas athlete brought in to raise British medal chances.

Britain’s host-nation quota of three wrestlers was cut to one before the Games because its athletes fell short of the qualifying criteria. Their failure drew criticism in the British media because the sport had received 3.5 million of funding over eight years to raise standards.

An emotional Butkevych, 26, apologised to the home fans in the packed wrestling arena after her medal chances slipped away in the dying seconds of her first bout.

“I’m so upset. I still don’t know what happened. My body was shaking more and more,” she said after the six-minute match. “I felt it was definitely my match and I should have won, but that’s sport.”

Butkevych came to Britain five years ago to work as a sparring partner for the country’s wrestlers and decided to stay.

Critics say bringing in foreign-born talent discriminates against homegrown athletes and goes against the spirit of the Games. The wrestler argued that her situation was not unusual in the modern era of mass migration.

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