June 6, 1976 |
Kadıköy, Istanbul, Turkey
|Height||1.76 m (5 ft 9 in)|
|Weight||84 kg (185 lb)|
Hamza Yerlikaya (born June 6, 1976, in Kadıköy, Istanbul) is a Turkish Graeco-Roman style wrestler. He is a two-time (in 1996 and 2000) Olympic champion, three-time World Champion (1993, 1995, and 2005), and the only Turkish wrestler to ever become European champion eight times. He was named The Wrestler of the century in 1996 by the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA).
A sports complex in Gaziosmanpaşa district of Istanbul is named after him.
Between 2007-2011, he was a deputy of the ruling Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi.
His family was originally from Sivas, but they moved to Istanbul three months prior to Hamza's birth. His father Mustafa Yerlikaya is also a wrestler but was no longer active by the time Hamza was born. He started wrestling at age of 11 encouraged by his father and inspired by his elder brother Muttalip Yerlikaya who is also a wrestler with international success.
International wrestling career
Hamza Yerlikaya's first international competition was in 1991 World Cadets Wrestling Championships in Quebec, Canada, in which he got the fourth place. His first senior international event was the 1993 European Wrestling Championships in Istanbul where he got the second place, losing to Thomas Zander in the finals. He surprised some of the spectators who thought this was a coincidence by winning the gold medal in 1993 World Wrestling Championships in Stockholm, Sweden at the age of 17, and hence becoming the youngest ever World Champion in wrestling.
As his age allowed, in some years he participated in seniors, juniors as well as cadets events. He won the World Championship again in 1995 and went on to win his first Olympic gold medal in Atlanta 1996 at the age of 20. He repeated his success four years later in Sydney 2000 and carried the flag for Turkey at the Sydney 2000 opening ceremony. Since then he has won three more World Championships (2002, 2003 and (at 96 kg) 2005). He has won the European Seniors Championship eight times (1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2006).
In April 2007, he withdrew from international competition due to emergency surgery to correct neck fractures, some of which were estimated to have been as much as four years old and never treated. 
Affiliations and coaching
- Between years 1986-1996 he was in Istanbul Demirspor club and was coached by Salih Bora and Muzaffer Aydin.
- He did his military service in 1996-1997 and is the only Turkish athlete that won a medal in Olympic Games during military service.
- He was coached by Salih Bora since 1997.
- In years 1998-1999 he was in Emlakbank club.
- Since 1999 he is wrestling for Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.
- Hakki Basar started coaching him in 2004.
Major international achievements
In reverse chronological order:
- 2006 European Championship in Moscow, Russia - gold (96 kg)
- 2006 World Cup in Budapest, Hungary - gold (96 kg)
- 2005 World Championship in Budapest, Hungary - gold (96 kg)
- 2005 European Championship in Varna, Bulgaria - gold (96 kg)
- 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece - 4th (84 kg)
- 2003 World Championship in Créteil, Paris in France - 7th (84 kg)
- 2002 World Cup in Cairo, Egypt - silver (96 kg)
- 2002 World Championship in Moscow in Russia - 6th (84 kg)
- 2002 European Championship in Seinäjoki, Finland - gold (84 kg)
- 2001 World Championship in Patras in Greece - 9th (85 kg)
- 2001 World Cup in Levallois-Perret, Paris, France - 5th (97 kg)
- 2001 European Championship in Istanbul, Turkey - gold (85 kg)
- 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia - gold (85 kg)
- 1999 World Championship in Athens, Greece - 21st (85 kg)
- 1999 European Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria - gold (85 kg)
- 1998 World Championship in Gävle, Sweden - 5th (85 kg)
- 1998 European Championship in Minsk, Belarus - gold (85 kg)
- 1997 World Cup in Tehran, Iran - gold (85 kg)
- 1997 World Championship in Wrocław, Poland - silver (85 kg)
- 1997 Mediterranean Games in Bari, Italy - gold (85 kg)
- 1997 European Championship in Kouvola, Finland - gold (85 kg)
- 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. - gold (82 kg)
- 1996 European Championship in Budapest, Hungary - gold (82 kg)
- 1995 World Championship in Prague, Czechoslovakia - gold (82 kg)
- 1995 World Espoir Championship in Tehran, Iran - bronze (82 kg)
- 1995 European Championship in Besançon, France - 7th (82 kg)
- 1994 World Championship in Tampere, Finland - 12th (82 kg)
- 1994 World Juniors Championship in Budapest, Hungary - gold (88 kg)
- 1994 European Espoir Championship in Istanbul, Turkey - gold (82 kg)
- 1994 European Championship in Athens, Greece - 5th (82 kg)
- 1993 World Championship in Stockholm, Sweden - gold (82 kg)
- 1993 European Juniors Championship in Götzis, Austria - gold (81 kg)
- 1993 European Championship in Istanbul, Turkey - silver (82 kg)
- 1993 Mediterranean Games in Languedoc-Roussillon, France - bronze (82 kg)
- 1992 World Cadets Championship in Istanbul, Turkey - gold (76 kg)
- 1992 World Juniors Championship in Santiago de Cali, Colombia - silver (74 kg)
- 1991 World Cadets Championship in Alma, Quebec, Canada - 4th (65 kg)
All listed events are Greco-Roman style wrestling.