18 years ago today at the 2004 Olympics Saori Yoshida would win her first of three Olympic gold medals. With the 2004 Olympic Games being the first time that women’s wrestling made the schedule this would be possibly the biggest tournament for wrestling in the last 20 years if not more.
Yoshida would already be a 2x world champion at this point winning gold along side her teammate Kaori Icho in 2002 and 2003.
Coming into the Olympics as 21 years old she was looking to become one of the youngest Olympic Champions in the history of the sport.
Looking back on the career of Yoshida who is statistically the most winning wrestler of all time it is absolutely insane that she went undefeated for 13 years.
He known international record of 89-3 includes some very big wins such as a pin over Helen Maroulis, multiple dominant wins over Sofia Mattsson, wins over Tonya Verbeek, and a win over Valeria Zholobova.
With 13 world titles, and 3 Olympic gold medals she has the most gold medals out of any wrestler in the modern era of the sport.
We all know what happened in 2016 when she would wrestle her final match against Helen Maroulis in the Olympic finals an opponent she had already pinned before. Maroulis would stun Yoshida in the finals 4-1 and shock the wrestling world going down as one of the biggest upsets in the history of sports.
Yoshida and Icho paved the way for the dominance you see nowadays in the world of women’s wrestling and together they have a staggering 30 world and olympic golds between them.
Fun Fact: the combined gold medal count of Icho and Yoshida would make them the second most dominant country in the history of women’s wrestling all time.
Their legacy stands to this day as two of the greatest wrestlers to ever touch a mat. Japan claimed 4 out of 6 olympic gold medal in the women’s freestyle division and even 4 out of 10 gold medals at the world championships while not even sending a full squad.
Who ever wins the next gold medal for Japan at the 2022 world championships in Belgrade will make history with Japan’s 100th gold medal in women’s freestyle.