The bucks' night fighter
Emotional ... Jimmy Lidberg wins the bronze medal. Photo: Reuters
Jimmy Lidberg is not your everyday embodiment of bucks' party entertainment.
For starters he's a man, one with an imposing physique straight off the nightclub bouncer production line. But blokes on the brink of marriage in Sweden have a unique, primal alternative to get their pre-wedding kicks.
It's just for normal Swedish guys. The guy that's going to get married, they want him to get beaten up a bit.
An emotional Lidberg won a bronze medal in the men's 96kg Greco-Roman wrestling on Tuesday night, tackled in jubilation on the mat at London's ExCel centre by his coaches when it was dramatically secured, and then by his partner, Johanna, who had flung herself onto the arena floor. It was a far cry from his day, or more accurately, his night job.
Jimmy Lidberg's coaches celebrate his bronze medal win. Photo: Reuters
When he isn't competing for an Olympic medal Lidberg and his older brother Martin, himself a three-time Olympic Greco wrestler, offer their services out to bachelor parties and companies in Stockholm, promising to throw each other - and the groom-to-be - around in a lounge room or function area for a fee. According to Lidberg's London 2012 profile, they also "incorporate a range of stunt fighting into their display".
"It's popular," Lidberg said after claiming a treasured medal. "It's just for normal Swedish guys. The guy that's going to get married, they want him to get beaten up a bit. "
In a nation where Lidberg's speciality is on the fringe of the sporting landscape, except for one afternoon and evening every four years, competitors have to earn an income in other ways. Even if it means turning up in lycra and putting on your best headlocks, takedowns and lifts for the viewing pleasure of a couple of dozen boozy mates.
Jimmy Lidberg competes with Tsimafei Dzeinichenka for the bronze medal. Photo: AP Photo
However, Lidberg, 30, is no mere novelty act, nor is his brother. Martin, now pushing 40, is a decorated ex-world champion who has enjoyed quite the profile in Sweden well beyond his career. In 2007 he won the television show Let's Dance, a Scandinavian version of Dancing with the Stars that pits a professional dancer with a celebrity.
The younger Lidberg's presence in the men's 96kg Greco wrestling field on Tuesday brought out a gathering of Swedes to London's Docklands precinct, the likes of which you might have expected to see around Melbourne Park of a January during the country's halycon days in men's tennis. Among the Russians, Georgians, Iranians and the other modern powerhouses of this primal Olympic discipline there was more than a healthy smattering of plastic viking hats and blue and yellow in support of Lidberg, who could pick up and lob Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander with a hand each.
Another Swede, Johan Euren, had won bronze in the plus-size 120kg category on Monday, and Lidberg entered his event as an 11/4 favourite, for those who like to wager on grapplers as well as greyhounds.
Azerbaijan's Shalva Gadabadze (in red) fights with Sweden's Jimmy Lidberg in round two. Photo: Reuters
However the bookmakers may not have been aware of just how inhibited the heart-on-his-sleeve Swede had been by injury in the lead-up to the Games. A silver medallist at the world championships in Istanbul last year Lidberg's reaction at winning his bronze-medal playoff against Tsimafei Dzeinichenka of Belarus reflected his torrid Olympic preparation. After coming through the repecharge route he seized the third round and the match by striking with Dzeinichenka in the par terre position, on his hands and knees.
"What makes it extra special for me is I had a very tough year, a big injury in my hip," Lidberg said, explaining the explosion of emotion that was the highlight of day 11 in the ExCel wrestling arena. "I couldn't train so much, it was a lot of pain for me. I didn't know if I would be starting a week ago. So achieving this bronze medal for me is like a gold."
Iran's Ghasem Rezaei won the 96kg gold, defeating Lidberg's quarter-final conqueror Russian Rustam Totrov in the final. The Swede's success, though, was a reminder of the country's rich history in the men-only pursuit. Despite the ancient impression of its name, it was created by a Napoleonic soldier in 1848 and until the turn of the 20th century featured such legal techniques as gouging with the nails, punching and the slamming of the arms together on a rival's stomach.
Last time the Olympics were in London, in 1948, Sweden won five gold medals in the wrestling. Up until then they were the undisputed heavyweights of the sport, with Carl Westergren most notably winning three Greco golds in 1920, 1924 and 1932.
Unlike when it was played at the 1896 Athens Olympics and each match could go on for hours, modern Greco wrestling matches are now concise three-by-two-minute-round entities with athletes entering the mat, in London, to the sound of The White Stripes' Seven Nation Army and before they know it, walking back off.
Lidberg will be on the front pages of Sweden's newspapers and at the top of their news bulletins on Wednesday. He and Martin may be getting booked for a few more stag nights after this.