Voldemar Väli, a crane operator from the port of Tallinn, took up wrestling in 1920 and soon rose to be one of the best featherweight and lightweight wrestlers in Estonia. Väli competed at the 1924 Olympics, but lost in the early rounds. Väli won his first international honors at the 1926 European Championships, where he captured gold in Greco-Roman featherweight, a victory he repeated at the 1927 European Championships, thus becoming the main favorite for the 1928 Olympic Greco-Roman featherweight gold. At the Olympics Väli did not disappoint, defeating all but one of his opponents by fall to become the second Estonian Olympic wrestling champion after Eduard Pütsep. After the 1928 Olympics Väli switched to lightweight and won silver at the 1930 and 1931 European Championships, but missed a possible Olympic medal at the 1932 Olympics because Estonia did not send a team to Los Angeles due to the Great Depression. Väli won his second Olympic medal, however, a bronze, in 1936 and also participated at the 1933, 1934, 1937 and 1938 European Championships, where he was fourth, fifth, fourth and fourth in Greco-Roman lightweight, respectively. Domestically Väli won 19 Estonian titles: in 1922, 1924 and 1926 in Greco-Roman featherweight, from 1928-40 and 1942 in Greco-Roman lightweight and in 1928-29 in freestyle lightweight. Väli retired from sports after the start of World War II and moved to Sweden during the conflict. In Sweden Väli first worked as a metal worker, but later established a doll workshop with his wife.