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European Games: An in-depth look at Sambo as it makes case for Olympic inclusion

Vladimir Putin has backed sambo's bid for Olympic inclusion.

Sambo is enjoying a rare moment in the international spotlight during two days of competition at the second European Games in Minsk.

Little-known outside the former Eastern Bloc, the sport nevertheless has big ambitions – and is increasingly confident of inclusion in the Olympic programme.

As it flexes its muscles and aims to make a global impression, Press Association Sport looks at the big questions around the sport.

What's in a name?

Sambo
Sambo is an amalgamation of a number of other martial arts (Martin Rickett/PA)

Sambo is an unfortunate acronym for the Russian phrase meaning "self-defence without weapons". This causes evident issues in some English-speaking countries due to the word's racist connotations, but they can be averted by simply changing a vowel: Great Britain's governing body is known as the British Sombo Association.

What exactly is it?

Military fans watch the sambo in Minsk (Martin Rickett/PA)

Sambo is a combat sport which combines techniques from numerous martial arts, including judo throws, karate strikes and wrestling grapples. It was devised by an intelligence officer called Vasili Oshchepkov, who had studied judo in Japan, as a defence technique for Red Army soldiers after the Russian revolution. For his troubles, Oshchepkov was subsequently accused of being a Japanese spy, and executed in the Great Purge.

Who wins it?

European Games 2019 – Day Three
Russia's Sergey Ryabov was on top of his 90kg match (Martin Rickett/PA)

Russia, funnily enough. The nation – or its various political precursors – has emerged with the most medals at all but one of the 43 World Championships staged since 1973. Only 25 of the 143 competitors in Minsk hail from nations outside the former Eastern Bloc. But sambo/sombo boasts 35 European federations alone, including Britain, with sombo clubs in Folkestone, Congleton and Dumfries.

Who is its most famous face?

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin started competing in sambo at the age of 14 (Matt Cardy/PA)

Vladimir Putin is the sport's ultimate enthusiast, having started competing at the age of 14. He was present to watch its debut at the European Games four years ago, and has backed its bid for Olympic inclusion. Putin also holds the prestigious title of 'National Master of the Sport of Sambo' in Russia.

Is it really going to reach the Olympics?

Sambo
Sambo is confident of inclusion in the Olympics (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Last year, the International Olympic Committee granted sambo provisional recognition, which takes it a big step closer to inclusion on the programme. The sport is confident it will soon be accepted. Sambo did make a fleeting appearance at the 1980 Games in Moscow, when it was performed as part of the opening ceremony.

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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
ChinaChina32211669
United StatesUnited States24282173
JapanJapan1961136
AustraliaAustralia1441533
Olympics flagRussian Olympic Committee13211852
Great BritainGreat Britain13171343
Today's Olympic highlights header

Wednesday's key events


SKATEBOARDING
· Team GB starlet Sky Brown - aged just 13 - takes part in the women's park event and has a realistic chance of picking up a medal too. Bombette Martin is Britain's other representative, while hosts Japan are among the favourites for gold (1am)

HOCKEY
· Great Britain's women have more history in their sights heading into their semi-final against Netherlands - the team they beat in the 2016 gold medal match (2.30am)

ATHLETICS
· The men's 400m hurdles final on Tuesday will go down as one of the greatest Olympic races of all time, and the women will attempt to emulate that, with new world record holder Sydney McLaughlin of USA and Netherlands' Femke Bol the favourites for gold (3.30am)
· Nick Miller is Britain's representative in the men's hammer throw final (12.15pm)
· The men's 800m final could be a wide-open affair (1.05pm)
· A thrilling men's 200m final is in store as the likes of Andre de Grasse, Noah Lyles and 17-year-old sensation Erriyon Knighton bid to succeed Usain Bolt as Olympic champion (1.55pm)

SAILING
· After a medal-laden day on the water on Tuesday, Great Britain will be looking for more success, starting with Luke Patience and Chris Grube in the men's 470-class medal race (6.33am)
· Team GB also have medal hopes in the women's event, with defending champion Hannah Mills looking to retain her crown alongside new teammate Eilidh McIntyre (7.33am)

BOXING
· Already guaranteed at least a bronze, Great Britain's Frazer Clarke faces Uzbekistan's Bakhodir Jalolov in the men's super heavyweight with a place in the gold medal bout up for grabs (7.03am)
· Ben Whittaker is also guaranteed a medal, but will look to ensure that is either gold or silver as he takes on Cuba's Arlen Lopez in the light heavyweight final (7.35am)

CYCLING
· World records have been tumbling in the velodrome, and another could go in the men's team pursuit final as Italy - new world record holders themselves - face Denmark (10.06am)

EQUESTRIAN
· Three Brits have made into into the final of the men's jumping individual final, including fastest qualifier Ben Maher, who will bid to inherit compatriot Nick Skelton's Olympic crown (11am)

> Today's schedule in full
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