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Johannes Kotkas

Biographical information

Medals OG
Gold 1
Silver 0
Bronze 0
Total 1
TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameJohannes•Kotkas
Used nameJohannes•Kotkas
Other namesYokhannes Yokhannesovich Kotkas, Йоханнес Йоханнесович Коткас
Born3 February 1915 in Kodijärve (EST)
Died8 May 1998 in Tallinn (EST)
Measurements184 cm / 115 kg
AffiliationsDünamo Tallinn, Tallinn (EST)
NOC(s) Soviet Union
Ethnic nationEST


Before the 1940 Olympics and World War II, Estonian Johannes Kotkas was believed to be the next Kristjan Palusalu and was expected to win both Greco-Roman and freestyle titles at the 1940 Olympics. The war interrupted his career, however, and cancelled the 1940 Olympics, although later, in 1952, Kotkas did won an Olympic gold. As a youth Kotkas participated in weightlifting and took up wrestling only in 1935, when he was already 20-years-old. Soon, however, Kotkas rose to be the second best Estonian heavyweight wrestler behind Palusalu. Kotkas first took part in the Estonian Championships in 1936, where he won silver in freestyle heavyweight behind Palusalu. In 1937, in Palusalu’s absence, Kotkas won the Estonian freestyle heavyweight title but, at the 1937 Estonian Greco-Roman championships, Kotkas was again second behind Palusalu. In 1938 Kotkas again placed second behind Palusalu at the Estonian Greco-Roman Championships but, as Palusalu ended his career soon after due to a severe shoulder injury, Kotkas won his second Estonian freestyle title. That year Kotkas also participated at the European Greco-Roman Wrestling Championships, winning the heavyweight title, which he repeated in 1939. Before the World War II, Kotkas won both Estonian Greco-Roman and freestyle heavyweight titles in 1939.

In 1940 the Soviet Union annexed Estonia and Kotkas continued his career by representing the Soviet Union. As the Soviet Union did not participate regularly at major international tournaments before the 1950s, Kotkas was not seen much in the international arena, but he won the 1947 European Greco-Roman heavyweight title, the 1953 World Greco-Roman heavyweight silver, and the 1956 World Cup. The high point of Kotkas’ career was at the 1952 Olympics, where he won the Greco-Roman heavyweight title in 13 minutes and 36 seconds, defeating all four of his opponents by fall. Domestically, Kotkas was nearly unbeatable, winning Soviet Greco-Roman heavyweight titles in 1940, 1943-46, 1948, 1950-53 and 1955-56, the 1947 Soviet freestyle heavyweight title, and the 1943 Soviet hammer throw title (with 53.88). Kotkas also won Soviet championships silver medals in freestyle heavyweight in 1946 and 1948, Greco-Roman heavyweight silver in 1949 and 1954, a sambo (a Soviet wrestling style similar to judo) heavyweight silver in 1951, hammer throw silver in 1946, hammer throw bronze in 1945 and 1947, and a shot put bronze in 1943. Kotkas was also Estonian SSR champion in Greco-Roman heavyweight in 1945-46, 1948-52 and 1954-59, Estonian SSR freestyle heavyweight champion in 1945, 1947-49 and 1951, Estonian SSR champion in heavyweight weightlifting in 1946 and Estonian SSR champion in the hammer throw in 1950.

Kotkas finished his sporting career in 1960 and later worked as a wrestling coach and referee. From 1961-76 he was the head coach of the Estonian SSR wrestling team and, from 1976 until his retirement in the middle of 1980s, he worked as a wrestling coach with Dynamo Tallinn. Beginning in 1965 Kotkas also served as an international wrestling referee. In 1990 Kotkas was selected as an honorary member of Estonian National Olympic Committee. Kotkas was also a recipient of the FILA Gold Star, the highest award ever given by FILA.


Games Discipline (Sport) Event Status Team Pos Details
1952 Summer Olympics Wrestling Heavyweight, Greco-Roman, Men Olympic 1 Gold Representing Soviet Union