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ULAAN BATAAR, Mongolia (AP) — A skin-baring protest by a pair of Mongolian wrestling coaches at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics might have struck some observers as slightly bizarre. Back home in their landlocked Asian nation, however, it's been praised as the appropriate response to bad refereeing.
Mongolian media and the public reacted angrily to the decision to award victory to Uzbekistan's Ikhtiyor Navruzov over Mongolia's Mandakhnaran Ganzorig in the 65 kilogram freestyle bronze medal match on Saturday.
While Ganzorig, who had already started celebrating, fell to his knees in disappointment, his coaches went much further.
Byambarenchin Bayaraa took his shoes and shirt off and threw them to the mat in disgust in front of the officials.
Tsenrenbataar Tsostbayar stripped all the way down to his blue briefs. The Brazilian crowd started chanting "Mongolia! Mongolia!"
Former freestyle wrestler Nyamjav Baasanjav said Tuesday the referees should have given Mandakhnaran a warning instead of awarding a key penalty point to Navruzov.
"This shows the referees were biased and favored the Uzbek wrestler," Baasanjav claimed. "Everyone can see from the video recording of the wrestling that Mandakhnaran was the better wrestler. Mongolia was robbed."
Wrestling is one of Mongolia's traditional sports — alongside archery and horseback riding — and has an intense following in the country of slightly fewer than 3 million people.
Stripping one's clothes off is considered an acceptable way of peacefully protesting a decision and the coach's actions were widely embraced.
"The internet loves the Mongolian coaches for this protest action," said Myagmardorj Boldbaatar, an entrepreneur and active social media user. "The coaches didn't break anything or physically hurt anyone. It was nothing personal."
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