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Aleksandr Karelin

Biographical information

Medals OG
Gold 3
Silver 1
Bronze 0
Total 4
TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameAleksandr Aleksandrovich•Karelin
Used nameAleksandr•Karelin
Original nameАлександр Александрович•Карелин
Born19 September 1967 in Novosibirsk, Novosibirsk (RUS)
Measurements193 cm / 99 kg
AffiliationsDynamo Novosibirsk, Novosibirsk (RUS)
NOC Russian Federation Soviet Union Unified Team
Nationality Russian Federation


Known by a variety of nicknames – “Russian Bear,” “Alexander the Great,” and “The Experiment” – Aleksandr Karelin is universally considered the greatest Greco-Roman wrestler of all time. He is one of only four men to have won three Olympic gold medals in wrestling (the others being Ivar Johansson, SWE, Aleksandr Medved, URS, and Carl Westergren, SWE). A frighteningly strong man, he won his first gold medal in 1988 in the super-heavyweight Greco-Roman class, competing for the Soviet Union. He defended that title in 1992, competing for the Unified Team, and in 1996, wrestled for Russia. Karelin was also favored to win his fourth consecutive gold medal in 2000 but, in a major upset, he lost in the final, 1-0, to unheralded American Rulon Gardner. Before this loss, Karelin had been undefeated for 13 years, his last defeat being to Igor Rostorotsky at the 1987 Soviet Championships, and had not lost a point in a match in six years.

Karelin took up wrestling in 1980 and made the Soviet national team in 1987 after winning the World Junior Championships in 1985 and 1987 and the European Junior Championships in 1986. In addition to his Olympic medals, Karelin, who competed in Greco-Roman super-heavyweight class his entire career, was World Champion in 1989-91, 1993-95, and 1997-99. His 12 championships in the Olympic and World events are the most ever, breaking the mark held by Medved. He also won European titles from 1988-96 and 1998-2000 and the 1987 World Cup and was a 13-time Soviet, CIS and Russian champion from 1988-2000. In 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1994, Karelin was elected as the best wrestler of the year and he carried the Soviet flag in 1988, the Unified Team’s flag in 1992, and the Russian flag at the 1996 Olympic Opening Ceremonies. He was also twice named the best Russian athlete of the year.

Karelin retired from sports after the 2000 Olympics and graduated from the Siberian Academy of Physical Culture with a Ph.D. in pedagogy in 2002. From 1995-99 Karelin worked with the Russian police force (militsiya) and, in 1999, was invited into politics by Russian president Vladimir Putin. Joining the United Russia party, Karelin was elected as a member of the Russian parliament (Duma) in 1999 and was re-elected in 2003, 2007 and 2011. In 2007 he became a member of the Duma’s committee on international affairs. In 2003 Karelin was one of the first 10 inductees elected to the FILA International Wrestling Hall of Fame. Since 1992, an annual wrestling tournament in his honor has been held in Novosibirsk.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal Nationality As
1988 Summer Olympics Wrestling URS RUS Aleksandr Karelin
Super-Heavyweight, Greco-Roman, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
1992 Summer Olympics Wrestling EUN RUS Aleksandr Karelin
Super-Heavyweight, Greco-Roman, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
1996 Summer Olympics Wrestling RUS Aleksandr Karelin
Super-Heavyweight, Greco-Roman, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
2000 Summer Olympics Wrestling RUS Aleksandr Karelin
Super-Heavyweight, Greco-Roman, Men (Olympic) 2 Silver

Other participations

Games Role NOC Nationality As
1988 Summer Olympics Flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony URS RUS Aleksandr Karelin
1992 Summer Olympics Flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony EUN RUS Aleksandr Karelin
1996 Summer Olympics Flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony RUS Aleksandr Karelin

Special Notes