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Old 02-01-2020, 08:48 PM
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Why hasn't Mongolia done better in Olympic wrestling (their national sport)?


Mongolia has not won an Olympic metal in wrestling since Mexico 1980. It seems to be such a big deal in their country, but they don't seem to do well internationally. Is Olympic wrestling a different type than what is practiced in Mongolia?
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Old 02-01-2020, 08:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Mangosteen View Post
Mongolia has not won an Olympic metal in wrestling since Mexico 1980. It seems to be such a big deal in their country, but they don't seem to do well internationally. Is Olympic wrestling a different type than what is practiced in Mongolia?
1980 would have been Moscow and heavily affected by the US and others boycott.
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Old 02-01-2020, 09:21 PM
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Mongolia has a population of appx. 3 million. That's a pretty small pool when looking for world class athletes in any sport. And the Olympics only take the very best (with exceptions which are generally not Olympic caliber athletes) of the world class athletes.
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Old 02-01-2020, 10:12 PM
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Mongolia has not won an Olympic metal in wrestling since Mexico 1980.
Missed one - they took the bronze in 2012 in women's freestyle wrestling 63 kg. Meanwhile they've been more consistent in boxing and judo. For a incredibly poor country of 3 million people Mongolia actually hasn't done that bad - 26 medals in 13 Olympic appearances.

They're no Finland( insane total of 303 medals in 25 appearances for 5 and half million people ), but then no one else is either. Morocco with 10x Mongolia's population at about 34 million has won 23 in 14 appearances. Vietnam with ~30x the population almost 93 million people has won 4 in 15 appearances.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 02-01-2020 at 10:13 PM.
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Old 02-01-2020, 10:53 PM
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First of all, yes, Mongolian wrestling does appear to be a very different sport than the styles of wrestling contested in the Olympics (Greco-Roman and freestyle).

Wikipedia has a fairly extensive article on the sport, and while I'm by no means an expert on wrestling, I note that one big difference is that, in Mongolian wrestling, you lose if your opponent forces your upper body, knee, or elbow to touch the ground (and, in Inner Mongolia, you lose if anything other than your foot touches the ground). Here's a video clip showing some Mongolian wrestlers (and some Western athletes attempting to compete in the sport).

So, Mongolian Olympic wrestlers are competing in an event that, while it isn't entirely dissimilar to their national sport, isn't a whole lot like it, either.

And, secondly, as Tamerlane notes, they are a poor country. They rank 110th in the IMF's rankings of countries on per-capita GDP for 2019, at $4,132 per person. Among other things, that likely means that they don't have access to the same sorts of training resources which athletes in wealthier countries have.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 02-01-2020 at 10:55 PM.
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Old 02-02-2020, 05:26 AM
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To be the best, you need to beat the best. Lack of top quality competition and lack of resources to bring in top quality trainers, competition. Also, as Tamerlane stated, Mongolian wresting is different from Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling.
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Old 02-02-2020, 05:38 AM
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We'll never know how much was natural talent and how much was coaching/training, but Bela Karolyi lead Mary Lou Retton and Juilanne McNamara to gold medals in 1984.
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Old 02-02-2020, 05:48 AM
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We'll never know how much was natural talent and how much was coaching/training, but Bela Karolyi lead Mary Lou Retton and Juilanne McNamara to gold medals in 1984.
Natural talent is overwhelmingly the major factor. A good coach can only maximize how far the athlete goes.
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Old 02-02-2020, 08:49 AM
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The fact it's their national sport doesn't necessarily mean they put a huge amount of money and resources into it.

Poorer countries CAN be powerhouses in particular sports; Jamaica, who kick fifty kinds of ass in sprinting, is the obvious example. They have picked up 11 or 12 medals in the last three Summer Games, all of them in sprinting, an amazing level of performance for a poor country with fewer people than Mongolia. Jamaica, however, REALLY puts a lot of effort into developing world class sprinters. Winning international competitions is an endeavour they take with extreme seriousness. It's an extremely popular sport there, of course, but they systematically identify the best young prospects and pour money, science and expertise into developing them into Olympic champions. They used to pay for them to go to American schools with good track programs to get the best coaches from there in their college years and to learn other techniques, but now they do less of that and more training in Jamaica. They have coaches, they have strength experts, they have nutritionists.

It's just not enough to look at a country's population and sporting interests and say they'll win medals. Winning medals is, more than anything else, a function of the country's Olympic program focusing on winning medals. That's why the Netherlands utterly dominates speed skating, but wins very little else. It's why Canada used to be a laughingstock at the Winter Games (Canada is the only country to host a Winter Games and not win a gold medal) and is now one of the most dominant countries at it; we just started pouring money into winning medals in likely events.
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Last edited by RickJay; 02-02-2020 at 08:50 AM.
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Old 02-06-2020, 12:25 PM
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*Is* wrestling their national sport? Not horse archery or skull-pyramid-building?
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Old 02-06-2020, 12:28 PM
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*Is* wrestling their national sport? Not horse archery or skull-pyramid-building?
Synchronized Yurts
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Old 02-06-2020, 12:45 PM
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There was a Mongolian named Bakhvain Buyadaa who took second place in judo at the 1972 Olympics. He almost surprised the reigning world champion Takao Kawaguchi and actually broke two of Kawaguchi's ribs before losing. Buyadaa fought his way back thru the repechage bracket to face Kawaguchi again in the finals, but this time Kawaguchi was ready for him and took him down and pinned him in 39 seconds (pins were 30 seconds back in those days).

Buyadaa was stripped of his silver medal for failing the drug test, the first time a judoka was stripped of a medal for doping.

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Old 02-07-2020, 07:48 AM
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Natural talent is overwhelmingly the major factor. A good coach can only maximize how far the athlete goes.
Not true. Having the right coaching, diet, funding (so you don't have to have a day job) and competition all have a huge impact on success rates.
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Old 02-07-2020, 07:54 AM
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It's just not enough to look at a country's population and sporting interests and say they'll win medals. Winning medals is, more than anything else, a function of the country's Olympic program focusing on winning medals. That's why the Netherlands utterly dominates speed skating, but wins very little else. It's why Canada used to be a laughingstock at the Winter Games (Canada is the only country to host a Winter Games and not win a gold medal) and is now one of the most dominant countries at it; we just started pouring money into winning medals in likely events.
Same with the UK. Following a dismal performance at the Atlanta Games (36th in the medals table), the UK set up a special funding body called UK Sport, paid for by the relatively new National Lottery. The UK has finished second and third in the medals tables in the last 2 summer games, precisely because of extreme investment in key sports.
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Old 02-08-2020, 05:04 AM
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Pardon my ignorance, but do Mongolians even care about the Olympics to begin with (or any aspect of the international stage, if we're being perfectly honest)? An Olympiad is a high-stakes, extremely cutthroat competition between the world's most elite athletes in a plethora of disciplines, many of which have minimal exposure outside the Olympics. Depending on the sport, developing medal contenders requires 1. a strong, prosperous professional league system which regularly produces world-class athletes (like the NBA and NHL) or 2. plenty of money, the right coaching, and the right equipment to develop dedicated athletes from the ground up. Also, it's easy to forget, but for a great deal of its history the Olympics had a HUGE, HUGE, HUUUUUUUGGGGEEEE political aspect, often to the point of outright proxy war. If mean, if you're an elite competitor in a game that's highly respected in your country but pretty much nowhere else, why the hell do you even want to get involved in this maelstrom?

In recent years, there has been one unexpected venue for strong Mongolian wrestlers to gain fame and make some real money: sumo. Foreigners in Japan's national sport was nothing new, dating back to the Korean conscripts of World War 2, but lately Japan had become a bit leery of being too open to outsiders. The biggest complaints were the "meat bombs", the Hawaiian trio of Konishiki, Akebono, and Musashimaru who achieve unprecedented success in large part because they were so much bigger and stronger than nearly everyone else. (Pretty much everyone absolutely despised Akebono for reasons I'm still not entirely clear on.) As time passed and sumo's popularity waned, however, the Japan Sumo Association pretty much had no choice but to open the doors again. Stylewise, sumo is the foreign discipline the most like Mongolian wrestling...pretty much the only major differences are the thick belt and the tawara boundary...so it has a natural appeal to aspiring Mongolians wanting to make a name for themselves in a well-funded sport with a large media presence. For a long time, though, none of them achieved any great level of success.

And then came Asashoryu.

I could go into a lengthy essay about how he developed his strength to superhuman levels and studied the game with the dedication of a chess grandmaster, but I'll just save you some time. Long story short, it opened the floodgates and the Mongol Invasion was well and truly underway.

A yokozuna receives a base salary of 2,820,000 yen per month, plus loads of incentive pay for his successes, kenshokin from individual match sponsors, and regular payouts from fan clubs. If he's fortunate enough to somehow gain Japanese citizenship and an expensive toshiyori kabu, he's set for life. He can earn a regular salary as a respected coach or mentor for as long as he likes, provided he does nothing especially egregious (coughTakanohanacough), and if he ever wants to retire or change careers, he can sell his kabu for a princely sum and follow his heart. Even a long stint at maegashira with regular trips to the sanyaku ranks can bring in a healthy income, especially once incentive pay adds up. Bottom line is, as long as sumo remains a viable option (and given how much trouble it has finding new prospects in Japan, it will), very few Mongolians are likely to ever take the time to learn a weird style of wrestling that offers a million-to-one shot at a medal worth a few thousand bucks. Especially since the JSA is merciless to competitors who show less than full dedication, something Asashoryu himself learned the hard way.

(Hakuho has made some noise about wanting to still be active when the 2020 Japan Summer Olympics rolls around, but that's largely a matter of personal pride...he's had his share of unfriendly scrapes with the JSA over the years...and he will not be competing.)
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Old 02-08-2020, 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by DKW View Post
Pardon my ignorance, but do Mongolians even care about the Olympics to begin with (or any aspect of the international stage, if we're being perfectly honest)? An Olympiad is a high-stakes, extremely cutthroat competition between the world's most elite athletes in a plethora of disciplines, many of which have minimal exposure outside the Olympics. Depending on the sport, developing medal contenders requires 1. a strong, prosperous professional league system which regularly produces world-class athletes (like the NBA and NHL) or 2. plenty of money, the right coaching, and the right equipment to develop dedicated athletes from the ground up. Also, it's easy to forget, but for a great deal of its history the Olympics had a HUGE, HUGE, HUUUUUUUGGGGEEEE political aspect, often to the point of outright proxy war. If mean, if you're an elite competitor in a game that's highly respected in your country but pretty much nowhere else, why the hell do you even want to get involved in this maelstrom?
They may not "care" in exactly the same way that, say, the U.S. or Russia does, and they are certainly competing against much wealthier countries with larger sports infrastructures, but they are certainly active participants: they've been in the Games since 1964, they send athletes to compete in numerous sports, and have won a total of 28 medals.
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Old 02-09-2020, 03:57 PM
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Yeah, that looks about right. Just a couple little surprises, shooting and swimming. Mongolia hasn't played a major role in any shooting wars, and from the videos I've seen there isn't enough spare water in the country to fill a swimming pool!

I'm actually more interested in regional competitions, in particular the Asian Games; that seems a better indicator of how committed a small, poor country is to sports. (The Wikipedia article only lists the top 10 medal winners.)
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Old 02-09-2020, 05:40 PM
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It's just not enough to look at a country's population and sporting interests and say they'll win medals. Winning medals is, more than anything else, a function of the country's Olympic program focusing on winning medals. That's why the Netherlands utterly dominates speed skating, but wins very little else. It's why Canada used to be a laughingstock at the Winter Games (Canada is the only country to host a Winter Games and not win a gold medal) and is now one of the most dominant countries at it; we just started pouring money into winning medals in likely events.
Example: India. Over 1 billion people live there, and they win very few medals in any sport besides field hockey.
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Old 02-09-2020, 08:07 PM
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Example: India. Over 1 billion people live there, and they win very few medals in any sport besides field hockey.
The obvious question: why? You'd think India would try to follow China's example.
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Old 03-01-2020, 12:49 AM
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Is there a thread asking why the US doesn't do so well in Olympic shooting?
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Old 03-03-2020, 05:37 PM
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The obvious question: why? You'd think India would try to follow China's example.
Because they don't care. Indians largely play non-Olympic sports (cricket, kabaddi, polo), and Indians don't really pay much attention to international competition outside of cricket and hockey.

India also has no real tradition of corporate athletic sponsorship, and can't "follow China's example" because it's not a dictatorship. Nobody in India is going to vote for politicians who promise massive public funding for sport given the country's other problems. Eventually, corporate money will change things - it already has to some extent, with brands like Kingfisher.
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