Wrestling in Greco-Roman, Risto Björlin made his international début as a flyweight at the 1963 World Championships. After competing at the 1964 Olympics, Björlin switched to bantamweight in 1965 and wrestled in that class until the end of his career in 1976. As a bantamweight, Björlin competed at the 1968 and 1972 Olympics, the 1966-67, 1969-70 and 1973 World Championships and the 1966-70, 1972 and 1974-76 European Championships. At those championships, Björlin won Olympic bronze in 1972, a European title in 1969, European silver in 1974, and European bronze in 1968. Björlin also earned Nordic bantamweight titles in 1966-70, a Finnish flyweight title in 1963, and Finnish bantamweight titles in 1970 and 1976. During his sporting career, Björlin worked as a fitter with Oy Strömberg Ab, which was the leading Finnish manufacturer of generators, electric motors and small power plants, and which later became a part of ABB corporation. Later Björlin worked as a sports secretary of Kuortane municipality and, from 1978-80, was head coach of the Finnish national wrestling team.