When Rajbek Bisultanov was 12, he fled war-torn Chechnya with his family and ended up in Herning, Denmark, a place where he faced new barriers and challenges in the form of language and culture.
Now 23, just over a decade later, the former refugee has done something no Dane has managed to do in almost a century: bring home a European title in wrestling.
“I was proud to hear the Danish national anthem being played because of me, and I’m happy that Denmark received me with open arms in 2008. Denmark has given me a good life and I’m proud to have been able to give something back in return with my European title,” Bisultanov told DR Nyheder.
Tokyo pending citizenship
Bisultanov won the title in the 82-kilo class in Bucharest, beating Lasha Gobadze of Georgia 4-3 in a riveting final. His victory was all the more impressive given he has only been wrestling at a senior level for just one year. See the final in full here.
In fact, the wrestling talent has enjoyed a scintillating 12 months, having won under-23 titles at a world and European level in 2018. He actually took up boxing initially, but a family member, Olympic champion Islambek Albiev, convinced him to switch to wrestling.
However, to follow in Albiev’s footsteps and compete in the Olympics, Bisultanov will need to get Danish citizenship first. He applied for permanent citizenship in January and aims to apply for citizenship when that comes through – hopefully before Tokyo 2020.
Bisultanov is doing his best to make things happen in Denmark. Five years ago, he moved to Nykøbing Falster, where the Danish national team is based, and aside from wrestling he works full-time at a packaging supply company and is studying to become a mechanic.
No Dane has won a big international wrestling title since 1926 – Danish wrestling legend and current MMA aspirant Mark O Madsen came close twice, finishing second at the 2015 World Championship and the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Check out the warm welcome home Bisultanov received from his wrestling club in Herning in the video below.