Estonia first appeared at the Paris 1920 Olympic Games and competed as an independent nation in the inter-war years. The National Olympic Committee was reconstituted after the break-up of the Soviet Union.
The first Estonian to win a medal was Greco-Roman wrestler Martin KLEIN, who won a silver representing Russia at the Stockholm 1912 Olympic Games.
Estonia’s first Olympic gold came at the Antwerp 1920 Games when weightlifter Alfred NEULAND won the lightweight category.
Most of Estonia’s medals in this period came in wrestling. Heavyweight Kristjan PALUSALU won gold in freestyle and Greco-Roman at the Berlin 1936 Olympic Games. He was only the second man to achieve this feat in the same Olympic year.
After independence, cyclist Erika SALUMAE became the first Estonian champion of the new era when she won the sprint at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. It was her second gold medal; she won the same event at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games competing for the Soviet Union.
Erki NOOL took gold in the decathlon at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. He competed in four consecutive Olympic Games (1992–2004). Gerd KANTER won gold in the men’s discus at the Beijing 2008 Games. In Beijing, rower Juri JAANSON participated in his sixth Olympic Games at the age of 40 and took silver in the double sculls.
In the Soviet era, Estonians competed as part of the Soviet Union team. Janis KOTKAS won Greco-Roman heavyweight gold at the Helsinki 1952 Olympic Games. Fencer Svetlana TSIRKOVA won gold in the women’s team event at the Mexico 1968 and Munich 1972 Olympic Games.
Three Estonians also won gold medals in team sports. At the Moscow 1980 Games, Viljar LOOR (men’s volleyball) and Mait RIISMAN (water polo) were members of Soviet teams and when the USSR took men’s basketball gold at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, Tiit SOKK was part of the squad.
The Estonian capital Tallinn hosted the sailing events at the 1980 Olympic Games.