2024 Olympic Games Watch Party

Sarah Hildebrandt Has Sights Set On Olympic Wrestling 2024 Paris Gold

Sarah Hildebrandt Has Sights Set On Olympic Wrestling 2024 Paris Gold

A full preview of the women's freestyle wrestling event in the 50-kilogram weight class at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

May 22, 2024 by Kyle Klingman

American Sarah Hildebrandt has five World/Olympic medals but wants something more. The 2020 Olympic bronze medalist is seeking gold in 2024.

Hildebrandt is in the 50 kg field and fans can watch her compete at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games on August 6-7 on NBC or Peacock. Wrestling takes place at Grand Palais Éphémère in Champ de Mars. FloWrestling will have on-the-ground coverage, and a live watch party during the Olympic wrestling competition.

Here's what to know.

The Olympic Gold Medal Favorite

The safe money is that Japan’s Yui Susaki will win her second consecutive Olympic gold medal and sixth World/Olympic title. The 24-year-old has only given up nine points in 21 matches and didn’t surrender any at three World-level Championships, including the 2020 Olympic Games. 

Her dynamic takedown attacks are matched only by her ability to secure a turn and end bouts early. Susaki has won all of her World/Olympic finals by tech and can make elite-level wrestlers look pedestrian. 

But Susaki can get beat if she’s not at the top of her game. 

Winning the 2020 Tokyo Olympics took fortunate timing. Susaki won the 2017 and 2018 Worlds but Yuki Irie represented Japan in 2019. Irie has three wins over her domestic rival and is the only wrestler to defeat Susaki since 2010. 

Irie would represent Japan at the Olympics if she won a medal at the 2019 World Championships, but those plans were derailed when she lost to China’s Yanan Sun in a wild 13-12 quarterfinal match. Sun lost to eventual champion Mariya Stadnik of Azerbaijan in the semifinals, leaving Irie out of medal contention. 

That opened the door for Susaki who took advantage by winning a special wrestle-off over Irie. The 2020 Olympic Games were postponed until 2021 but Susaki dominated the competition in front of her home crowd. Sun gave Susaki an Olympic opportunity and, as fate would have it, Susaki defeated Sun, 10-0, in the gold medal finals. 

Susaki opted out of the 2021 World Championships a few weeks later but her replacement, Remina Yoshimoto, won gold. 

Any points scored against Susaki are newsworthy given her dominant career. That’s why her performance at the recent Asian Championships offers a sliver of hope for the rest of the world. She won three matches for the title but had a 4-1 win over Yong Ok Hwang of North Korea in the quarters and an 8-4 win over China’s Ziqi Feng in the finals. Feng won a bronze medal at the 2023 Worlds, losing to Susaki, 8-2, in the semis. 

Yui Susaki at the Worlds and Olympics

2017 Worlds (19)2018 Worlds (20)2020 Olympics (22)2022 Worlds (23)2023 Worlds (24)
W - Thalía Mallqui (PER), 10-0W - Alina Vuc (ROU), FallW - T.O. Namuuntsetseg (MGL), 10-0W - Nguyễn Thị Xuân (VIE), 10-0W - Alisson Cardozo (COL), 12-1
W - Julie Sabatié (FRA), 13-2W - Ritu Phogat (IND), 11-0W - Lucía Yépez (ECU), 10-0W - Anna Łukasiak (POL), 10-0W - Alina Vuc (ROU), Fall
W - Victoria Anthony (USA), 11-0W - Oksana Livach (UKR), 10-0W - Mariya Stadnik (AZE), 11-0W - Mercy Genesis (NGR), FallW - Ziqi Feng (CHN), 8-2
W - Kim Son-hyang (PRK), 5-2W - Mariya Stadnik (AZE), 10-0W - Yanan Sun (CHN), 10-0W - Otgonjargal Dolgorjavyn  (MGL), FallW - Otgonjargal Dolgorjavyn (MGL), 10-0
W - Alina Vuc (ROU), 14-4

The American: Sarah Hildebrandt

Sarah Hildebrandt’s dynamic wrestling style and sparkling personality make her a superstar, but she’s tired of winning silver and bronze medals. Hildebrandt fell to Mongolia’s Otgonjargal Dolgorjavyn at back-to-back World Championships before bouncing back for bronze. She did the same at the 2020 Olympics. Hildebrandt fell to China’s Yanan Sun, 10-7, in the semis then teched Ukraine’s Oksana Livach for bronze. 

“I’ve done this now a lot of times,” Hildebrandt said after her 2023 World bronze medal match. “There’s a certain point (where you ask) how much more do I have to be resilient and when can I start being good, being the person? I feel like I’m getting way too comfortable being the resilient one who has to pick herself back up.”

Domestically, Hildebrandt has no peer. She hasn’t lost a match to an American since dropping from 53 to 50 kg after the 2019 World Championships. Her high-octane pace and world-class leg lace make her a favorite to reach the podium again. Hildebrandt is the only wrestler at the weight to medal at the 2020 Olympics and every subsequent World Championships. 

But can she strike gold? She's never faced Susaki so an Olympic final between these two is a match the world wants to see.


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Hildebrandt used her leg lace to end a match early at the 2023 Pan-American Championships

The Paris Olympic Games Wrestling Contenders 

China’s Ziqi Feng won a bronze medal at the 2023 World Championships and was ahead of Susaki, 4-2, at the 2024 Asian Championships. Susaki eventually won, 8-4, but this is encouraging news for the rest of the weight since points have been nearly impossible to score against the Japanese star. Feng could be Susaki’s toughest opponent.

Mongolia’s Dolgorjavyn Otgonjargal is a medal favorite after reaching the 2022 and 2023 World finals, falling both times to Susaki. Her compact frame makes her a problem since changing levels and getting to her legs can be difficult.

The sentimental favorite is Mariya Stadnik of Azerbaijan who recently made her fifth Olympic team. The 35-year-old is a four-time Olympic medalist, winning silvers in 2012 and 2016 and bronzes in 2008 and 2020. Her impressive career includes six Senior World medals (two gold, three silver, one bronze), and 12 European titles. 

Making the 2024 Olympic Team wasn’t easy, and it took winning the true bronze medal match at the World Olympic qualifier to make it happen. She skipped the 2021 and 2022 World Championships and finished eighth in 2023. The 50 kg field is deep so a medal for Stadnik would add to her legacy.

Keep an eye on North Korea’s Song-hyang Kim. North Korea is conspicuously absent during World-level events then appear when it matters most. Kim won a bronze medal at the 2017 World Championships (dropping a 5-2 match to Susaki), disappeared for four years after the 2019 Worlds, and then reappeared at the 2023 Asian Games where she finished second to Japan’s Remina Yoshimoto. 

Kim nearly scored the winning takedown against Susaki at the buzzer but time ran out. North Korea lost the challenge, giving Susaki the 5-2 win.

Kim entered the World Olympic qualifier and reached the finals with a late 10-3 win over Stadnik. The North Korean gave Susaki a tough match at the 2017 Worlds so she could be a threat at the Olympics. 

India’s Vinesh Phogat dropped from 53 kilograms to make her third Olympic Team. She won World bronze medals in 2019 and 2022 but caused a stir when she entered two weights — 50 and 53 — at her country’s trials process in March. 

Phogat reached the finals of this year’s Asian Olympic qualifier at 50 kg after five years at 53. Her last time at this weight was during the 2018 Asian Games where she defeated Japan’s Yuki Irie — the same opponent with three wins over Susaki — in the gold medal finals. 

2020 Through 2023 Olympic Quad

2020 Olympics2021 Worlds2022 Worlds2023 Worlds
GoldYui Susaki (JPN)Remina Yoshimoto (JPN)Yui Susaki (JPN)Yui Susaki (JPN)
Silver Yanan Sun (CHN)Sarah Hildebrandt (USA)Otgonjargal Dolgorjavyn (MGL)Otgonjargal Dolgorjavyn (MGL)
BronzeMariya Stadnik (AZE)Nadezhda Sokolova (RUS)Anna Łukasiak (POL)Zigi Feng (CHN)
BronzeSarah Hildebrandt (USA)Otgonjargal Dolgorjavyn (MGL)Sarah Hildebrandt (USA)Sarah Hildebrandt (USA)
FifthT.O. Namuuntsetseg (MGL)Bohdana Kokozei (UKR)Mercy Genesis (NGR)Alisson Cardozo (COL)
FifthOksana Livach (UKR)Alina Vuc (ROU)Alina Vuc (ROU)Evin Demirhan Yavuz (TUR)

The 2024 Olympic Wrestling Field

These women's freestyle wrestlers qualified their countries for the 2024 Olympic Games.

Gold - Yui Susaki (JPN)
Silver - Dolgorjavyn Otgonjargal (MGL)
Bronze - Ziqi Feng (CHN)
Bronze - Sarah Hildebrandt (USA)
5th Place - Evin Demirhan (TUR)

Continentals Qualifiers
Pan-Ams - Alisson Cardozo (COL)
Pam-Ams - Yusneylis Guzman (CUB)
African & Oceania - Nada Mohamed (EGY)
African & Oceania - Ibtissem Doudou (ALG)
Euros - Oksana Livach (UKR)
Euros - Nadezhda Sokolova (RUS)
Asians - Aktenge Keunimjaeva (UZB)
Asians - Vinesh Phogat (IND)

Last Chance World Qualifier
Song Hyang Kim (PRK)
Anastasia Blayvas (GER)
Mariya Stadnik (AZE)

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