Aleksandr Karelin

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Aleksandr Karelin
Medal record
Men's Greco-Roman wrestlingAleksandr Karelin WCG-2013.jpg
Olympic Games
Representing  Soviet Union
Gold 1988 Seoul Super heavyweight
Representing Olympic flag.svg Unified Team
Gold 1992 Barcelona Super heavyweight
Representing  Russia
Gold 1996 Atlanta Super heavyweight
Silver 2000 Sydney 97 – 130 kg
World Championships
Gold Colorado Springs 1985 Up to 130 kg
Gold Vancouver 1987 Up to 130 kg
Gold Martigny 1989 Up to 130 kg
Gold Ostia 1990 Up to 130 kg
Gold Varna 1991 Up to 130 kg
Gold Stockholm 1993 Up to 130 kg
Gold Tampere 1994 Up to 130 kg
Gold Prague 1995 Up to 130 kg
Gold Wroclaw 1997 Up to 130 kg
Gold Gävle 1998 Up to 130 kg
Gold Athens 1999 Up to 130 kg
European Championships
Gold Malmo 1986 Up to 130 kg
Gold Kolbotyn 1988 Up to 130 kg
Gold Oulu 1989 Up to 130 kg
Gold Poznań 1990 Up to 130 kg
Gold Aschaffenburg 1991 Up to 130 kg
Gold Copenhagen 1992 Up to 130 kg
Gold Istanbul 1993 Up to 130 kg
Gold Athens 1994 Up to 130 kg
Gold Besançon 1995 Up to 130 kg
Gold Budapest 1996 Up to 130 kg
Gold Minsk 1998 Up to 130 kg
Gold Sofia 1999 Up to 130 kg
Gold Moscow 2000 Up to 130 kg
Karelin was also
a 14-time champion of the USSR and Russia

Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Karelin, or simply Alexander Karelin, (Russian: Александр Александрович Карелин; born September 19, 1967 in Novosibirsk, Russian SFSR) is a Hero of the Russian Federation and was a dominant Greco-Roman wrestler for the Soviet Union and Russia. Nicknamed the "Russian Bear," "Alexander the Great" and "The Experiment", he was universally considered the greatest Greco-Roman wrestler of all time,[1][2] he won gold medals at the 1988, 1992 and 1996, as well as a silver in the 2000 Olympic Games. Karelin's wrestling record is 887 wins and only two losses in his entire sport career.[3][4]


Karelin was born as a 6.8 kg (15 lb) baby. Karelin holds a Ph.D. in Physical Education.

Nicknamed the "Russian Bear," "Alexander the Great" and "The Experiment", he went undefeated for the first time from 1982 to 1987 and second time from 1987 to 2000. In 1985 Karelin came to international competitions. Karelin lost his first match to the mighty Soviet champion Igor Rastrutsky in the USSR championship in 1987. Rastrutsky scored only 1 point against Karelin. In the first four years of his international sporting career, Karelin won almost 100 international bouts, two Olympic games, three European championships, and three World championships without single loss.[5][6][7]

In the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Karelin faced American Matt Ghaffari for the gold medal. Karelin had come off shoulder surgery and looked vulnerable against a strong Ghaffari, who was able to repel Karelin's efforts to lift and slam him, forcing Karelin to use all of his skill and experience to defend a 1-0 lead.[2]

After going 13 years undefeated in international competition and six years without giving up a point, he had an upset 1-0 loss to Rulon Gardner of the United States in the gold-medal match at the Sydney Olympics.[8] Karelin had previously beaten Gardner in 1997.[3][4] The win was controversial at the time as it took 90 seconds to review,[9] and is still an element of contention today since the broken-hands clinch rule had only been put in a few months earlier.[10] According to The Slate, "Karelin’s icy gulag death stare during the medal ceremony is one of the most terrifying sights in Olympic history".[11] Karelin A.A. is among the 25 best world athletes of the 20th century.[12]

Karelin was revered for his extraordinary strength and unprecedented success in international competition. He competed at the heaviest weight class of his day, 130 kg (286 lb) and 1.91 m (6-feet-3 1/4 inches) tall. His conditioning and quickness combined with his dominance of the sport, led to him being known as "The Experiment".[13] When asked why he thought he was called that, Karelin noted that others don't understand because "I train every day of my life as they have never trained a day in theirs."[14] His coach convinced him to wrestle at the age of 13 and Karelin trained by running through thigh deep snow for 2 hours at a clip and rowing a boat on Siberian lakes until his hands bled.[15]

On February 21, 1999 Aleksandr Karelin defeated Akira Maeda in a professional wrestling contest that drew a gate of $1 million. The match gained widespread media coverage, including mentions in The New York Times and Sports Illustrated.[16] The match took place in the Maeda owned professional wrestling organization RINGS. Though widely considered to have been a shoot style pro-wrestling contest, the match is counted as an official mixed martial arts (MMA) match in Sherdog's record database.[17]


Karelin was famous for his reverse body lift, the "Karelin Lift", where facing the opponent who was lying flat on the mat to keep from being thrown, Karelin hoisted his opponents into the air and slammed them violently to the mat. This devastatingly effective maneuver, when properly executed, awarded Karelin 5 points per throw, the maximum awarded in Greco-Roman wrestling. The throw had long been in use by lighter wrestlers but not by heavyweights since the technique required immense strength. Karelin's ability to perform this throw against elite opponents weighing as much as 130 kg was amazing to audiences as well as other participants and observers of the sport.


Karelin officially retired from competitive wrestling in 2000[18] and began his political career. He joined the United Russia party and was elected to the State Duma as a representative of the Novosibirsk Oblast in 1999 and 2003. In 2007 he was elected to the Duma as a representative of the Stavropol Krai. He is a member of Duma's committee on international affairs.

Mixed martial arts record[edit]

Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Win 1-0 Akira Maeda Decision (Unanimous) Rings: Final Capture February 21, 1999 3 5:00 Japan


  1. ^ Encyclopedia – Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved on 2011-02-09.
  2. ^ "Karelin loses first-ever international match". Summer Olympics 2000 ( September 27, 2000. Archived from the original on September 21, 2011. Retrieved February 9, 2011. 
  3. ^ "The World's Five Greatest Athletes No One Knows"/"Alexander Karelin"
  4. ^ In 1987 he lost to Igor Rastruckii (only 1-0) and to Rulon Gardner in 2000 (only 1-0)
  5. ^ Великий борец России
  6. ^ Alexander Karelin: The Meanest Man in the World
  7. ^ Badass of the Week. Alexander Karelin
  8. ^ The Sporting News, Miracle on the mat – wrestler Rulon Gardner wins the gold medal in the Olympics, 9 October 2000
  9. ^ "Miracle on the Mat". CNN Sports Illustrated. September 27, 2000. Archived from the original on October 17, 2000. 
  10. ^ Frank Lawlor (August 2, 1992). "Siberian Heavyweight Gives Other Wrestlers The Chills His Monster Image Also Interests Hollywood". Philadelphia Media Network. Archived from the original on February 8, 2014. 
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ Karelin, Alexander Alexandrovich
  13. ^ "Alexander Karelin: The Meanest Man in the World". Bleacher Report. 
  14. ^ "The Biggest Winner". Joe Posnanski. Archived from the original on February 8, 2014. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Aleksandr Karelin VS Akira Maeda". YouTube. August 4, 2012. Archived from the original on February 8, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Alexander "The Experiment" Karelin MMA Stats, Pictures, News, Videos, Biography". Sherdog. Archived from the original on February 8, 2014. Retrieved February 9, 2011. 
  18. ^ Alexander Karelin – Chronology

External links[edit]

Olympic Games
Preceded by
Nikolay Balboshin
Flagbearer for  Soviet Union / Olympic flag.svg Unified Team /  Russia
Seoul 1988
Barcelona 1992
Atlanta 1996
Succeeded by
Andrey Lavrov