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'Nothing has ever matched it' - 20 years on from WWE legend Kurt Angle's Olympic miracle

The Pennsylvania native is an icon in the world of amateur wrestling.

Kurt Angle of the United States reacts to his gold medal win in the 100kg class of freestyle wrestling at the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Kurt Angle of the United States reacts to his gold medal win in the 100kg class of freestyle wrestling at the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

BEFORE KURT ANGLE was well known as a professional wrestler, he was a highly talented amateur wrestler.

The Pennsylvania native was a two-time National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Heavyweight Wrestling Champion and a gold medallist in freestyle wrestling at the 1995 World Wrestling Championships.

And most significantly, in an event that has since been dubbed ‘a miracle,’ Angle became a gold medallist at the 1996 Games in Atlanta where he beat Abbas Jadidi of Iran on 31 July, despite competing with a badly damaged neck, having fractured two cervical vertebrae at the US Olympic trials.

Source: Britthebest04/YouTube

In short, Angle, as one of just four people to earn an amateur wrestling Grand Slam (Junior Nationals, NCAA, World Championships, Olympics), is a legend of the sport, earning a place in the International Sports Hall of Fame earlier this year.

However, these days, the 47-year-old is arguably better known for his professional wrestling exploits.

Source: WWE/YouTube

Two years after his Olympic gold triumph, Angle signed an eight-year contract with the World Wrestling Federation (as it was then known). In the WWF/E, Angle won six world titles in total, before he was released due to injury problems in 2006.

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Since leaving the WWE, Angle has had stints with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling, while his life has been embroiled in controversy on more than one occasion in recent years owing to steroid allegations and various legal issues.

Angle is currently on a break from wrestling, though rumours of a long-awaited WWE return persist, while he also made an unsuccessful amateur wrestling comeback ahead of the London 2012 Olympics, as hamstring and knee injuries put paid to the star’s hopes of repeating his 1996 heroics.

TNA Wrestling Destination America Kurt Angle of the United States listens to the national anthem during the medal ceremony after winning the gold medal in100 kg class of freestyle wrestling at the Summer Olympic games in Atlanta. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Consequently, Angle still thinks of his 1996 Olympic gold medal as “the best moment of my life as far as my career is concerned”. In a recent interview with ESPN, he reflected: “Nothing has ever matched it.

I’ve always looked for things to get that feeling back, and never did. That’s what makes me so hungry, and what has kept me in the game for so long. I know what it felt like, and I want to feel that again. I’ll do whatever I can.

“I don’t think I can just sit back and retire. I’m the kind of person that has to be doing something, has to be working towards accomplishments. That Olympic gold made me who I am.”

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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