Yrjö Saarela at the 1912 Olympics
13 July 1884|
|Died||30 June 1951
|Height||1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)|
Yrjö Erik Mikael Saarela (13 July 1884 – 30 June 1951) was a Finnish wrestler and farmer who competed in the 1908 Summer Olympics and in the 1912 Summer Olympics. He won a silver medal in his first Games and the gold in his second.
He entered his first Olympics in 1908 in London. The event was run as a knock out competition, and Saarela progressed through the various rounds, defeating Søren Marinus Jensen of Denmark in the semi final. In the final he faced fellow Finn Verner Weckman in the final, but lost the bout, resulting in him receiving the silver medal for the event.
After winning his category at the 1911 World Wrestling Championships, he competed in the 1912 Olympic Games, as one of the six wrestlers put forward by Finland of the eighteen wrestlers in the heavyweight competition. He faced Jensen once more in the deciding match for the gold medal, winning the bout after Jensen retired due to exhaustion following three hours of wrestling in the open air.
He briefly had a professional wrestling career, and also coached the Finnish national wrestling team. He was awarded a Cross of Merit for his sporting achievements in 1948. After his death the medal passed into the hands of the Sport Museum of Finland in Helsinki.
Saarela was a farmer, and owned land near Oulu until the 1930s when he was forced to sell it. He and his family moved to Markuksela in 1932 and began working the land there. At the age of sixty he suffered a stroke whilst farming which left his paralysed. Seven years later, he died on 30 June 1951. After he died, he was buried in his family plot and his name was added to the gravestone along with an engraving of the Olympic rings.
- "Yrjö Saarela". Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
- "Urheiluhistorian merkkitapahtuma Oulussa – Olympiarenkaat painija Yrjö Saarelan (1884–1951) hautakiveen" (in Finnish). Suomen Olympiakomitea. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
- "Wrestling at the 1912 Stockholm Summer Games: Men's Heavyweight, Greco-Roman". Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved 8 July 2012.