Kristjan Palusalu

Biographical information

Medals OG
Gold 2
Silver 0
Bronze 0
Total 2
TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameKristjan•Palusalu
Used nameKristjan•Palusalu
Other namesChristian Trossmann
Born10 March 1908 in Saulepi (EST)
Died17 July 1987 in Tallinn (EST)
Measurements185 cm / 110 kg
AffiliationsSport Tallinn
NOC Estonia


Kristjan Palusalu can claim, more than any other wrestler, that for one year he was the ultimate wrestling champion. Palusalu shares with Ivar Johansson and Källe Anttila the distinction of having won Olympic gold in both styles of wrestling. Only he and Johansson, however, won them in the same Olympic year – 1936 for Palusalu. Palusalu wrestled in the heavyweight class, however, and was thus undoubtedly the finest wrestler in the world for the year 1936.

Palusalu participated in gymnastics, weightlifting and track and field athletics as a youth, not taking up wrestling until 1929, when he was already 21-years-old and serving in the Estonian Navy. Palusalu won his first medal in 1930, a bronze in freestyle heavyweight, at the Estonian Championships. In 1931 Palusalu won his first Estonian freestyle heavyweight title and, in 1932, won his first Estonian Greco-Roman title. Estonia did not send an Olympic team to the 1932 Olympics due to the Great Depression, so Palusalu made his international début at the 1933 European Greco-Roman Championships, where he was fourth in heavyweight. The next international tournament where Palusalu competed was his best, the 1936 Olympics, where he won gold medals in both styles. After the Olympics Palusalu won the 1937 European Greco-Roman heavyweight title, but had to retire from sports in early 1938 due to a severe shoulder injury. Domestically, Palusalu won 12 Estonian titles, from 1932-38 in Greco-Roman heavyweight and in 1931-33, and 1935-36 in freestyle heavyweight, and was selected as Estonian Sportsman of the Year in 1936.

From 1933-40 Palusalu worked as a prison guard in the Tallinn Central Prison. In 1940, when the Soviet Union annexed Estonia, Palusalu was sent to a Kotlas labor camp in Arkhangelsk Oblast. Palusalu managed to escape in 1941 with some friends, but he was caught and sentenced to death. This was commuted only to have him sent to the front on the Karelian Isthmus against the Finns. Half an hour after arriving on the front, Palusalu tried to cross and luckily was recognized by Heikki Savolainen, a lieutenant colonel of the Finnish Army, who ordered a ceasefire so that Palusalu could cross the front. Palusalu returned to the now German-occupied Estonia, but was arrested again by the Soviets in 1944 when they re-occupied Estonia. Palusalu was sent to a Siberian prison camp, but was released after two years. After his release Palusalu returned to Estonia, but was initially not allowed to work as a wrestling coach or act as a wrestling referee by Soviet officials. Thus, until his retirement in the late 1970s, Palusalu worked as a construction worker, although during the 1960s, during the Khrushchev Thaw, he was allowed to act as a wrestling referee in some local tournaments.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1936 Summer Olympics Wrestling EST Kristjan Palusalu
Heavyweight, Greco-Roman, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
Heavyweight, Freestyle, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold

Special Notes