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International Wrestling

Is it Harder to Win World/Olympic Medals Since the Fall of the Soviet Union?

65 kg Medal Stand Rio MFS

The dominance of the Soviet Union on the wrestling mat was unparalleled from the time they made their international debut at the 1952 Olympics until many of the countries competed as the Unified Team in 1992.  In the intervening years, wrestlers representing the USSR won more than 40% of the gold medals across World Championship and Olympic competition in both freestyle and Greco.  During that time, the common wisdom held that some of the tournaments in Russia, where great wrestlers who never quite made the international teams were able to compete, were tougher than the Olympics themselves due to the depth of the field.  When the Soviet Union broke up, more of that talent, from countries such as Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belarus, and others, got a chance to compete on the world stage.  Many have advanced the theory that, because of more representatives from Soviet-bloc countries, it is now tougher than ever to win a world-level medal.

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