Summer Olympic Games 1996 – 2012
Japan is historically one of the strongest nations in wresting, where the sport has grown out of its sumo tradition. But most of its recent medals have been on the women’s side, where it has won an extraordinary seven out of the twelve gold medals ever awarded. At London 2012, Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu was its first male champion since way back in 1988.
Turkey’s success dates back to the earlier London Olympics, in 1948, from which it took home six gold medals. Iran won its first title back in 1956 in Melbourne. Iran’s neighbour Azerbaijan is a rising power – though they have very different histories, there are many cultural commonalities between them. Azerbaijani government investment also helps.
Soviet wrestling medallists once came disproportionately from Georgia and, to a lesser extent, Azerbaijan. Since the Cold War came to an end, a startling 11 of Russia’s 25 gold medals have been due to Dagestan, a state which looks jealously across the border at its fellow Caucasians. Russia hopes that wrestling will check its independence ambitions.