Evelina Nikolova – The Warrior

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo were not expected with much enthusiasm in Bulgaria as there were fears that the country could end up without a medal. However, Tokyo 2020 turned out to be Bulgaria’s most successful summer Olympics since the one in Sydney in 2000.

One of the six medals Bulgaria had was won by Evelina Nikolova. She won a bronze medal in freestyle wrestling in the women’s category up to 57kg.

Evelina Nikolova. Photo courtesy of Kostadin Andonov / Start-photo.bg

Nikolova was born in Petrich, which is a town located near the Bulgarian border with Greece. She started wrestling when she was a child. “I was quite an energetic and wild child, so my parents enrolled me to train wrestling so I could spend my energy,” she said.

Nikolova does not single out a specific person who has helped her most with her development as they are so many. “Every coach I have worked with has a contribution to my success, as well as my family which has always supported me!”

Evelina Nikolova with Bulgaria's coaching staff. Photo courtesy of Kostadin Andonov / Start-photo.bg

She has won several medals from different competitions, including from European and World Championships. However, she says that nothing can be compared with the medal from the Olympics. “This is definitely my most valuable medal! After all, this is the dream of every professional athlete and the peak of a sports career! The price of the medal is huge as the heavy training, the pressure, the deprivations and most of all the absence from my family paid off.”

Nikolova has had to deal with several injuries during her career and there was a time when she thought about quitting. “There was a moment when I said to myself that this is the end, but then fate met me again with my current personal trainer Miroslav Gochev, who made me believe in success, for which I am infinitely grateful. I can say for myself that I am mentally strong, but the people close to me - my family, friends and coaches have been around me all the time and have supported me unconditionally. Very often they have believed more in me and my abilities than I have.”

Nikolova’s performance was made even more impressive by the fact that this was her debut at the Olympics. Her first match was against Jovita Verziesien from Poland and she won with 6:3 points. In wrestling, the athlete with the most scored points during the match is declared the winner if there is no touchdown. Nikolova stated that her mindset prior to heading out on the wrestling mat was the same as before any other competition. “Like before any other match, I thought that I have to go out and give my best.”

Evelina Nikolova. Photo courtesy of Kostadin Andonov / Start-photo.bg

As with all other events at the Olympics, fans were not allowed to see the bouts in wrestling. This did not affect Nikolova in any way. “I was completely focused on my matches and I didn't think about whether there was an audience or not.”

In the wrestling tournament, the 1/8, Quarter, and Semi-final bouts are all in one day, which means that your physical condition is put to the test. Nikolova says that the recovery process between the matches is a post factor of training and that the preparation for a competition is long and has a specific aim.

In the bronze medal match, Nikolova beat Valeria Koblova of the Russian Olympic Committee by touchdown. She says that this is a moment she will never forget and will always cherish. “This emotion that every athlete experiences for a few seconds is indescribable, it is something amazing!”

Evelina Nikolova. Photo courtesy of Kostadin Andonov / Start-photo.bg

There are many people who are happy for her as they are the ones who have always supported her. “I was probably the happiest because this is the result of a lot of hard work. Of course, my personal trainer Miroslav Gochev, as well as my family and loved ones were also on top of the world as they have always been around me and know what I have been through!”

Nikolova has confirmed that she will be staying in wrestling at least until the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris, where she will try to win the gold medal. As for the near future, the competitions never stop. “Very soon we have a World Championship in Oslo. My preparation continues little by little for the next events. I want to be healthy and be able to train fully! From there what God has said, will happen!”

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