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The Olympic Transfer Tracker

The Olympic Transfer Tracker

How common is it for Olympic wrestlers to have transferred federations, and how much success do they have at the Games? We investigate.

Aug 11, 2021 by Andrew Spey
The Olympic Transfer Tracker
Athletes moving from one country to another has been a part of sports for as long as there have been sports. Wrestling is no exception to this phenomenon, and the frequency of such occurrences has shown no signs of abating, no matter how rare transfers used to be.

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Athletes moving from one country to another has been a part of sports for as long as there have been sports. Wrestling is no exception to this phenomenon, and the frequency of such occurrences has shown no signs of abating, no matter how rare transfers used to be. 

Whatever your feelings on the topic, that transfer took place prior to the Tokyo Olympics was a matter of fact. Being curious about the topic, we combed through the biographies of all the entrants to try and get a better understanding of those 'transferred' Olympians. 

The following list is not exhaustive, and there are for sure some non-medalists that we did not account for, however, the research we conducted should help illuminate some interesting aspects of the transfers for those who share in our curiosity. 

Olympic Medalist Transfers

Quite a few wrestlers who climbed the most prestigious podium steps in the sport watched a hoisted flag that was different from the one under which they first started competing internationally. 

And no, we are not talking about the ROC. Those athletes will still compete under a Russian flag in the future and did not transfer. 

57 Kilogram Men's Freestyle Bronze Medalist

Nurislam Sanayev: RUS to KAZ

Sanayev is from Tuva, a small republic in the Russian Federation that shares many cultural ties to Mongolia. When Sanayev transferred to Kazakhstan, he not only changed his federation, he changed his name (formerly Artas Sanaa) and converted to Islam. 

He also, unfortunately, seems to have recently confused Ravi Kumar with food.

74 Kilogram Men's Freestyle Silver Medalist

Magomedkhabib Kadimagomedov: RUS to BLR

Kadi, also known as Mahamedkhabib Kadzimahamedau when written in the incredibly annoying Belarussian alphabet, is originally from the wrestling hotbed of Dagestan, specifically the mountainous hinterlands. 

Kadi was a Russian National champion at 70kg in 2015 but did not place at that year's World Championships. He's since found greater success at the Olympics competing for neighboring Belarus, a program comprised primarily of Russian expats. 

Kadi is an ethnic Avar, like Abdulrashid Sadulaev and many other Dagestani wrestling legends. He unofficially has the longest name in Olympic wrestling medalist history.

86 Kilogram Men's Freestyle Bronze Medalist

Myles Amine: USA to SMR

Originally from Dearborn, Michigan, Myles Amines continues to train in his home state with the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club in Ann Arbor, also home to his collegiate wrestling team, the Michigan Wolverines. 

Amine and his brother Malik are Sammarinese on their mother's side. Incredibly Myles was not the first Olympic medalist for the tiny Apennine microstate of 34,000 souls. That honor went to Alessandra Perilli who earned a bronze medal in trap shooting a week before Amine etched his name in San Marino sporting history. 

97 Kilogram Men's Freestyle Bronze Medalist

Abraham Conyedo: CUB to ITA

Just like in the 2018 World Championships, Conyedo was able to medal at a major tournament where his more famous and accomplished teammate, and fellow Cuban-Italian, Frank Chamizo, was not. 

Conyedo also had to ditch the ñ in his last name when he switched nations (the letter does not exist in the Italian alphabet) and stopped listing his mother's maiden name (Ruano) after his patronymic last name, as is the custom in Cuba and other Hispanic cultures

50 Kilogram Women''s Freestyle Bronze Medalist

Mariya Stadnik: UKR to AZE

Stadnik was recruited early in her career to move from Ukraine to Azerbaijan, and what a career it's been. Practically only losing to Japan, she's amassed four Olympics medals (two brozne and two silver) and six World medals, including two gold. 

87 Kilogram Greco-Roman Bronze Medalist

Zurab Datunashvili: GEO to SRB

Though not as prolific at exporting wrestlers as their larger, northerly neighbor, Russia, Georgians can be found in many a wrestling program throughout the globe. You can also find Georgian coaches just about everywhere as well, like in Bajrang Punia's corner for example. 

Zurab won a pair of European gold medals before he was lured away to the greener pastures of Serbia. 

Non-Medalist Olympic Transfers

Those were all the medalists we found. Here are more Olympian transfers. Let us know who we missed!

60kg Greco-Roman, Ildar Hafizov: UZB to USA

Ildar represented both his home country of Uzbekistan (2008) and his adopted country of the United States (2020) at the Olympics.

87kg Greco-Roman, Rustam Assakalov: RUS to UZB

Rustam is Adyghe, the indigenous people of the Northwest Caucasus region who suffered greatly during the colonial period of the Russian Empire in the 1800's. 

87kg Greco-Roman, Mikheil Kajaia GEO to SRB

Kajaia was vanquished in the first round by American G'angelo Hancock. 

130kg Greco-Roman, Yasmani Acosta CUB to CHI

Yasmani stayed within Pan-America when he transferred. Many Cubans of his generation have first names that start with the letter Y, thought to be inspired by Russian names like 'Yuri'.

130kg Greco-Roman, Eduard Soghomonyan: ARM to BRA

From the not-all-that-active Armenia-to-Brazil wrestling pipeline.

57kg Men's Freestyle, Stevan Micic: USA to SRB

The Serbian Sickle is another member of the multicultural CKWC in Michigan. Stevan qualified for the Olympics by placing fifth at the 2019 World Championships. 

65kg Men's Freestyle, Ismael Musukaev: RUS to HUN

The spelling changes to Muzsukajev when written in the Hungarian alphabet. Big Moose had a controversial match at the 2016 Russian Nationals with eventual Olympian Viktor Lebedev. 

65kg Men's Freestyle, Magomedmurad Gadzhiev: RUS to POL

Like many other Olympians, Gadzhiev is Dagestani, a predominantly Muslim land. Gadzhiev's last name is derived from the Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. Additionally, 'Magomed' is the variant of Muhamed most often found in the Caucusus. 

74kg Men's Freestyle, Frank Chamizo: CUB to ITA

An international treasure, Chamizo trains everywhere from Dagestan to the NYC RTC in Hoboken, NJ. Frank was also a cast member of the Italian television show, Dance Dance Dance

86kg Men's Freestyle, Boris Makoev: RUS to SVK

Makoev, (also Makojev) is of a crop of talented Ossetians now competing for Slovakia, along with Gulaev and Salkazanov. One of the Slovakian men's freestyle coaches is not coincidentally also from North-Ossetia, a predominantly Christian state in the North Caucasus, although interestingly the Ossetian language is related to Farsi, or Iranian.

86kg Men's Freestyle, Ali Shabanov: RUS to BLR

Also spelled Shabanau because of the annoying Belarussian alphabet, Shabanov is an Avar from Dagestan. He didn't make the podium in Tokyo but he has three bronze medals from past world championships. 

97kg Men's Freestyle, Sharif Sharifov: RUS to AZE

Sharifov (also spelled Sharipov, although we don't know why) is also an Avar from Dagestan. His streak of Olympics medals was stopped at two-in-a-row when he lost to Salas in the bronze-medal match in Tokyo. A gold from London and a bronze from Rio is still a pretty solid career if this is the last we see of Sharif at the Games. 

97kg Men's Freestyle, Magomedgaji Nurov: RUS to MKD

When you see a Magomed competing for a country other than Russia, there's a good chance they're an Avar from Dagestan, as is the case of Nurov. The second half of his first name is also a derivative of the Hajj. Nurov competed for North Macedonia, a country formerly known as the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia due to a dispute over the name 'Macedonia' with their southerly neighbor, Greece. 

97kg Men's Freestyle, Magomed Ibragimov: RUS to UZB

You'll never guess where Ibragimov is from. Okay, yes you will, he is an Avar from Dagestan. He placed third in Rio but was unable to find the podium in Tokyo. 

97kg Men's Freestyle, Albert Saritov: RUS to ROU

This bracket had, as far as we can tell, the most transfers of the Olympics. Saritov shared the Rio podium with fellow Dagestani Ibragimov, but unlike Magomed, Albert is Chechen, from Khasvyurt, a city in Dagestan with a sizable Chechen population. The Satiev brothers were both Chechens from Khasavyurt.  

125kg Men's Freestyle, Egzon Shala: ALB to KOS

A move from Albania to Kosovo was likely a seamless one, as Kosovo is a breakaway state from Serbia that is comprised mostly of ethnic Albanians. Due to its tumultuous recent history, Kosovo is not recognized by a number of countries and is not a member of the UN, although it is a member of the IOC.

125kg Men's Freestyle, Aiaal Lazarev: RUS to KGZ

A Yakut from Yakutia (AKA the Sakha Republic), Gable Steveson's first felled foe of the Olympics made the move from frozen tundra of Siberia to the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. 

50kg Women's Freestyle, Valentina Islamova: RUS to KAZ

Valentina is from Novosibirsk (literally 'New Siberia), a city founded during the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Later, the Soviet Union ordered the construction of a technical university that to this day is one of Russia's leading institutions of higher learning. 

50kg Women's Freestyle, Elis Manolova: BUL to AZE

A world bronze medalist in 2019, Manolova couldn't find her way to a medal in Tokyo. Fun fact: Bulgarians shake their head for 'yes' and nod for 'no'. That's wild. 

One final note about transfers. Many people are under the assumption that you need to have some familial or ancestral connection to the country you are transferring to. This is false. No connection whatsoever is required. 

All that matters is that someone pays the transfer as dictated by UWW Regulations and that the athlete receives a passport from the new county. Having ties or connections to the country one is transferring to may help save time and/or money in the process, but it is not necessary.