This week in Tokyo saw Mijain Lopez of Cuba win his fourth consecutive gold medal. It’s an incredible achievement. Though, every other athlete who wins four gold medals becomes the talk of every sports fan, even if just for the Olympics.
But we’re guessing you haven’t heard of Mijain Lopez and his incredible feats. That’s because Lopez competes in super heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestling - the ancient sport enjoyed by millions around the globe but may be the least reported sport in these parts.
Lopez first entered the Olympics in 2004 as a 21-year-old, winning his opening two bouts before losing to eventual gold medallist Khasan Baroev of Russia. 17 years on, he hasn’t lost an Olympic bout.
Entering the 2008 games as world champion, Lopez gained his revenge on Baroev, beating him in the final to earn his first gold medal.
2012 saw four more victories and another gold medal winning performance. This time he beat Estonian Heiki Nabi in the final.
Doubts were raised about Lopez ahead of the 2016 Olympics when he lost the 2015 world championship final to Riza Kayaalp of Turkey. He responded by not losing a single point in the tournament and beat Kayaalp in the final for gold number three.
Ahead of 2020, Lopez hadn’t been on the international scene. His teammate Oscar Pino earned Cuba a quota by winning silver at the 2019 World Championships (an event Lopez had not competed in since 2015). However, once the great man put himself forward for selection, there was only one man going to Tokyo.
He breezed through the opening three bouts on Sunday, including a semi-final whitewash of long time rival Kayaalp. In Monday’s final, the 38-year-old beat Iakob Kajala of Georgia to write himself into Olympic immortality.
Not only is he the first man to win four gold medals in Greco-Roman wrestling, but he’s the first Cuban to win four gold medals in any sport. He was tied with the great boxers Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon.
He is, without question, one of the all-time greatest Olympians. You don’t need to know much about the sport of Greco-Roman wrestling to recognise his incredible achievements.