The oldest sport in the world

The ancestral activity of the struggle As a constant for survival, it has probably become the oldest sport in competition, it has been present in the Olympic Games of antiquity since 708 BC. C. and in the modern era in the I JJOO in Athens 1896. The Olympic Wrestling has 18 different events and 72 medals, becoming the combat sport with the most medals in the Olympic program. We carried out a study in order to know how the sports training process has been carried out from its initiation until reaching the high competition of the fighter. For this, a qualitative methodology is used through descriptive, retrospective and interpretive content analysis. Twenty-four Spanish Olympic Wrestling athletes participated in at least one Olympic Games with life stories and a semi-structured interview.

High performance

The results showed that the age of sports initiation was between 12 and 14 years old, reaching high performance around 19 years of age, with the coach's work being decisive. Social factors must be considered when planning the training process, the personal environment has been crucial, the support with their peers in the first place and in the second the family as the most relevant aspects. In the training process dimension, it is found that the passage through specialized sports centers has been definitive for the achievement of their objectives. From the psychological point of view, they consider that they have not worked on the psychological aspects adequately, valuing that they are fundamental in high competition if you want to achieve excellence, they consider motivation and self-confidence as the variables, conditioning factors and important for sports performance.

Tactical technical training

The technical-tactical training believes that they are the most important and determining components in high competition. In the dimension of physical condition, strength is the most outstanding quality for athletes, followed by endurance and speed. Finally, in the training processes the best technicians must be at the base, creating a suitable and familiar climate around the sports technification centers.

 Keywords: Olympic wrestling, sports training, high performance, talent, sports initiation.


        In this brief section I wish to thank all the people and institutions that have supported me in carrying out this research, in particular my co-supervisors of this thesis, Dr. María Jesús Bazaco Belmonte and Dr. José María López Gullón, for their ability, professionalism and trajectory, thank you very much.

       To those who are not with us, and will always be present for their teachings, dedication and transmission of knowledge. To Santiago Morales, one of the best Spanish fighters of all time and the best person, responsible for my affection for the fighting family; to my scientific professor Rainerio Prado, who provided me with the knowledge of the Cuban school and to be able to participate as an assistant professor in the combat sports chair at the Manuel Fajardo Higher Institute of Physical Culture in Havana, Cuba. Thank you Masters.

To my Master Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi Soke from Bujinkan, for showing me the way of Budo with freedom, justice and peace. Arigatou Gozaimasu Dome.

      To each and every one of my students, classmates, teachers, athletes, Olympians and friends who share my concern for the study of combat sports and martial arts as a way of life, and especially to the sports professor Arturo Díaz Suarez already Don José Rabadán Ignoto, always present at each sporting stage in an unconditional way.

      Institutionally, the Faculties of Education and Sports Sciences of the University of Murcia; and the Spanish Wrestling Federationmainly to Don Ángel López Rojo, distinguished Olympic fighter and fundamental president in the development of the fight in Spain.  

      Finally, thank you for all the support to my family: my wife María Luisa Iglesias, source of inspiration, and tireless competitor, to our daughter Jenny for her understanding in my absence from her moments; and my parents who always motivated me in sports as a role model.

 IIntroduction and justification of the topic

           The Olympic phenomenon in its many and varied manifestations has become an interesting field for social research and in particular sports science. In this sense, Coubertin was the main precursor of the use of the image of the hero-athlete as a reference and model that engenders sporting habits in the general population, what he himself calls: «the exaltation of the individual athlete, whose existence is necessary for the muscular activity of the community, and its feats, for the maintenance of the general emulation », (Coubertin, 1973, pp.196-197). 

In relation to the proposal of our work we would like to point out that wrestling is probably the oldest sport subject to competition. In the I Olympic Games (JJOO) of the modern era in Athens 1896, the rebirth of a new fight called Greco-Roman or Classic Fight is considered due to the historical ideology it represented. Later, a new discipline, Lucha Libre, would be incorporated in the 1904 San Luis Olympics (Petrov, 1997; and Stromback, 1987).

Wrestling has been present in all Olympic Games programs with the sole exception of Paris 1900, where the wrestlers were summoned, they did not appear due to their participation in a parallel professional competition (Coulon, 1962; and Chiu, 2005). Already in the XXI century, the third discipline Women's Wrestling was incorporated into the 2004 Athens Olympics, with full rights and thus completing the Olympic program in sports fighting.

           In this sense, the career of the Olympic athlete carries great personal implications, experiences and feelings that make up the identity mark of reference in his country and is developed for us through the practice of the principles of heaven, earth and man in conjunction. as a single entity. Heaven and earth rotate following the laws of the universe, and these laws correspond to nature. Nature exists without its own will; it is consistent with existence, however, the struggle is practiced by people who think and act; It is accompanied by an action that is developed in a constructive teaching and learning process, motivating in the perseverance to achieve excellence Hatsumi, (2017).

In this way, Engel (1979), in his work Dialectic of Nature expresses us that: “Movement, in the most general sense of the word, conceived as a modality or an attribute of matter, encompasses each and every one of the changes and processes that operate in the universe, from the simple displacement of place to thought ”. In this sense, we propose the process of sports training as the Olympic Charter indicates in one of its sections: “Olympism is a philosophy of life, which exalts and combines the qualities of the body, the will and the spirit in a harmonious set. "

           The fundamental topic of the research is about "The Sports Training Process of the Spanish Olympic Wrestler". Regarding the athletes who participate in an Olympic Games, they become experts in a discipline, but not all of them achieve excellence, in this sense: «For a hundred to dedicate themselves to physical culture, it is necessary for fifty to do sports; for fifty to play sports, twenty must specialize, and for twenty to specialize, we need five who are capable of extraordinary feats ”, (Coubertin, 1973, p.193).

The Olympic movement generated numerous contributions in various fields such as: cultural, educational, or sports among others (Müller, 1986). The one that concerns us in this work is the sports-educational one that, to our knowledge, no studies have been found regarding the training processes in Olympic wrestlers. On the other hand, yes in judo, another combat sport of the Olympic program, in the thesis published by Robles, (2016). However, current literature shows other recent studies of individual sports such as athletics (Durand-Buch and Salmela, 2002; Palao, Ortega, Calderón, and Abraldes, 2008) and basketball in team sports (Sáenz-López et al., 2006).

  The choice of the research topic is clearly marked by my thesis supervisors, since they exercise a favorable conjunction for this doctoral student to develop his study. Dr. Bazaco is a specialist in Theory and History of Education, in addition to analyzing the Olympic phenomenon, and Dr. López-Gullón, with his research on the conditioning qualities of performance in wrestlers, as well as the stages of sports initiation and high capacities in fight. They conditioned me in a study little investigated but closely related to its lines, such as the training processes of the fighters who reach the elite and what influence different environments exert throughout their life as an athlete.

The circle of this PhD student's life revolves around combat sports, it is a philosophy of life, a path with stages. In the first stage I started judo when I was 11 years old, with good results in competition, I have been champion of Spain and international in judo and sambo wrestling, what could be called an elite athlete, the only important thing was competition. I consider a second stage of sports training as a coach and later as a teacher and leader. The favorable results of several generations of athletes attest to my passing, I have been co-founder of the Fighting Federation of the Region of Murcia, president and technical director. And a third stage as a teacher and researcher in which I am currently developing.

  Olympic wrestling is a traditional sport with essence. Tradition and modernity create the present and prepare for the future, with that premise I would like to start this work, given the multidisciplinary profile we propose to analyze the training process of Spanish Olympic wrestlers, in addition to being able to establish a starting point to develop new Proposals around the sports preparation of the Olympic wrestling in Spain. 

Pstudy approach

           The Olympic Wrestling in Spain is a minority sport with a long history, little analyzed and with great potential if it is given the appropriate attention. The participation of wrestlers in an Olympic Games JJOO from Paris 1924 to Rio de Janeiro 2016 (Table 1), are conducive to addressing necessary research studies in combat sports such as Olympic Wrestling with three specialties Lucha Libre (LL), Greco-Roman (GR) and Wrestling (LF), Judo (men and women), Taekwondo (men and women), Boxing (men and women) and Fencing (men and women). These sports represent the 25% of the Olympic medals and some modality is followed and practiced by millions of fans around the world (Kim, Greenwel, Andrew, Lee, & Mahony, 2008; Ko, Kim, & Valacich, 2010).

          The Olympic Wrestling has 18 different events (12 male and 6 female) in the Olympic Games, divided into the three specialties of this sport, 6 in Greco-Roman male, 6 in male wrestling and 6 in female wrestling, computing a total of 72 medals, becoming the combat sport with the most medals in the Olympic program, (UWW 2014). This magnitude of medals means that in countries where wrestling is a national sport, their training itineraries are established as a priority due to their podium classification in some Olympic Games, such as in Cuba, the United States, Japan, or Russia. 

Table 1. Spanish participation of wrestlers in the XX and XXI century Olympics

Olympic GamesMedalsDiplomasParticipation
Paris 19244
Rome 196015
Tokyo 19641
Moscow 19802
Los Angeles 19843
Seoul 19889
Barcelona 1992110
Athens 20042
Beijing 200813
London 20121 (Bronze)1
Rio de Janeiro 20161

     The initiation of an athlete

   starts from birth in a certain social environment with an inherited favorable genetic load, and it develops in a complex training process, structured in different stages with the aim of reaching the elite and being able to participate in some Olympic Games. In this process, attending to the theory and methodology of sports training that structures the different cycles, and fundamentally groups the teaching-learning process with the development of each of its elements. It proposes the preparation of the athlete at a physical, technical-tactical, theoretical and psychological level, encompassing essential tasks in a planned and structured way in a theoretical-practical way, contemplating the needs of said training, and thus complying with the system of multidisciplinary principles. In summary, the object of the process can be summarized as: the integral development of all the components that make up the athlete's preparation from the base to high performance.

Following Collazo (2006), he states that sports training aims and demands the consistent application of pedagogical and didactic principles systems, but also requires the use of biological and psychological principles that are essential for obtaining superior results and remaining in the elite. . In the training processes they are approached by multiple authors who propose systems from different perspectives of each of the applied sciences, (Astrand and Rodahl, 1986; Bompa, 2003; Chaabene et al., 2017; Forteza and Ranzola, 1989; Grosser and Neumair, 1990; Hernández, 1986; Mader, 1986; Matveiev, 1985; Ozolin, 1989; Platonov, 1991; Sánchez Bañuelos, 1990; Techine, 1990; and Verkhoshanski, 2001).

             The characteristics of Olympic wrestling, being a sport of variable opposition, athletes attach great importance to technical-tactical complexes, since the activity of the wrestler is characterized by an efficient technical arsenal and a high development of tactics to achieve good results. The integration of these components in the training process manages to progressively link performance, increasing success in high competition. As different coaches and schools propose, (Alijánov, 1986; Barbas & Popov, 2003; Dajnovski and Leschenco, 1989; Dellinger, 1994; González and Cañedo, 1996; Kazarian, 2009; Kotarski and Sorokin, 1978; Kuptsóv, 1978; Mazur, 1989; Petrov, 1995; and Sasahara, 1982).

           On the other hand, other studies postulate that sports training depends on a multitude of aspects and not only genetics or the athlete's dedication to training (Lorenzo and Calleja 2010; Ruiz and Salinero 2011), but they show sports performance as an integrated process, in which contextual, technical, tactical, physical and psychological aspects influence (Robles, Robles, Giménez, and Abad 2016). From the perspective of the social sciences, there are numerous works that try to find those variables, characteristics and factors that differentiate athletes of the highest competitive level from those athletes who do not reach it. These studies have been developed through the qualitative analysis of the life trajectories of elite athletes, using research techniques such as interviews, questionnaires or life stories. The numerous works in this environment are based on the influence of contextual and psychosocial variables on the development of the athlete.

This current considers the person as a blank book that is being written as a result of their experience and learning throughout their sports career, identifying several factors of a psychological, social and contextual nature that contribute to the development of the expert athlete. In this area we can highlight the research carried out by: Ericsson, Krampe & Römer, 1993; on the fact of having developed a properly planned and structured training during several cycles in suitable conditions; in the same way, using a more comprehensive and rigorous training process (Gimeno, Buceta and Pérez-Llanta, 2007); conditioning factors in the development of the expert athlete (Durand-Bush & Salmela, 2002; Vaeyens, Güllich, Warr, & Philippaert, 2009); with the possibility of having trained and appropriate coaches at each moment of the athlete's development (Bloom, 1985; Côté, Baker, & Abernethy, 2007; Giménez, 2003; Lorenzo, 2003; Salmela, & Moraes, 2003); the place of birth (Côté, MacDonnald, Baker, & Abernethy, 2007); influence and support by parents and relatives (Bloom, 1985; Côté, 1999; García-Moya, Moreno, Rivera, Ramos and Jiménez-Iglesias, 2011); age and its effects (Cobley, Baker, Wattie & Mckenna, 2009; Krampe, & Ericsso, 1996); psychological skills and attributes (Gould, 2002; Gould, Guinan, Greenleaf, Medbery, & Paterson, 1999). Throughout the research carried out, there are many factors that condition the training process of an athlete, and in unison there are multiple conditions that arise from this cause.

In addition to the above, he must comply with the rules and criteria that determine the participation of that expert athlete in an Olympic Games, they are established in the case of Olympic fights in the following organizations: International Olympic Committee (CIO), United World Wrestling (UWW) , Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) and Spanish Federation of Olympic Wrestling (FELO). All these institutions are interrelated and have a direct or indirect impact on this process.


Olympic Games VII Olympiad 1924 Paris (France) Europe
NameModalityCategoryMarket StallBirth
+ Domingo Sánchez GarcíaGreco-RomanRooster -57 kg18th18.01.1899
+ Jordan Vallmajo GiraltGreco-RomanFeather -63 kg.19th14.05.1896
+ Francisco Solé PlanaGreco-RomanLight -70 kg.13th01.01.1900
+ Emilio Vidal BarrachinaGreco-RomanSemi-medium 78kg.15th01.01.1897
Olympic Games XVII Olympiad 1960 Rome (Italy) Europe
+ Santiago Cañete PastorGreco-RomanRooster -57 kg.26th
+ Francisco Delgado HernándezGreco-RomanLight -70 kg.18th
+ Angel Cuetos CasanuevaGreco-RomanSemi-medium -78 kg.20th
Angel Lopez RojoGreco-RomanMedium -87 kg. 15th
+ José Panizo RodrigoGreco-RomanSemi-heavy -97 kg.6thDiploma
Olympic Games XVIII Olympiad 1964 Tokyo (Japan) Asia
+ Jose Panizo RodrigoGreco-RomanMedium-97kg14th
Olympic Games XXII Olympiad 1980 Moscow (USSR) Europe
Luis Fernando San Isidro VallejoGreco-RomanMedium - 87 kg12th
+ Santiago Morales Alonso Free OlympicHeavy + 97kg10th
Olympic Games XXIII Olympiad 1984 Los Angeles (USA) America
Miguel Angel Garcia RamirezFree OlympicRooster -57 kg.16th
Francisco Iglesias SernaFree OlympicLight -70 kg.12th
+ Ignacio Ordoñez BárcenaFree OlympicMedium-78kg15th
Olympic Games XXIIIV Olympiad 1988 Seoul (Korea) Asia
Carlos Fernandez AntonGreco-Roman-62 kg.11th
Francisco Barcia RodriguezGreco-Roman-68 kg.14th
Oscar Sánchez Silva of SantiagoGreco-Roman-74 kg.12th
Alfredo Marcuño MartínezFree Olympic-48 kg.11th
Vicente Cáceres SuarezFree Olympic-62 kg.16th
Juan Antº Caride GrandalFree Olympic-68 kg.18th
Eusebio Serna VicenteFree Olympic-74 kg.19th
Francisco Iglesias SernaFree Olympic-82 kg.14th
Jesus Montesdeoca TrujilloFree Olympic132 kg.10th
Olympic Games XXV Olympiad 1992 Barcelona (Spain) Europe
Miguel Angel Sierra PortilloGreco-Roman-57 kg.19th
Bernardo Martínez LópezGreco-Roman-62 kg.11th
Pedro Villuela CuestaGreco-Roman-68 kg.15th
Jose A. Recuero GarciaGreco-Roman-74 kg.13th
Francisco Sánchez MorenoFree Olympic-48 kg.17th
Laureano Atanes VenegasFree Olympic-52 kg.12th
Andres Iniesta PachecoFree Olympic-57 kg.14th
Vicente Cáceres SuarezFree Olympic-62 kg.18th
Francisco Barcia RodriguezFree Olympic-68 kg.14th
Francisco Iglesias SernaFree Olympic-82 kg.8thDiploma
Olympic Games XXVIII Olympiad 2004 Athens (Greece) Europe
Moisés Sánchez ParraGreco-Roman-66 kg.16th
Jose A. Recuero GarciaGreco-Roman-74 kg.9th
Olympic Games XXIX Olympiad 2008 Beijing (China) Asia
Francisco Sánchez ParraFree Olympic-55 kg.13th
M.ª Teresa Méndez MayoFree Female-63 kg.16th
Maider Unda González from AudicanaFree Female-72 kg.5thDiploma
Olympic Games XXX Olympiad 2012 London (UR) Europe
Maider Unda González from AudicanaFree Female-72 kg.3rdBronze
Olympic Games XXXI Olympiad 2016 Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) America
Taimuraz Friev NaskidaevaFree Olympic-74Kg.18th

Source: Spanish Federation of Olympic Wrestling and Associated Sports FELODA, (2016). 

+ Deceased by 2020


  • Study the sports training process of the wrestlers who have represented Spain in the Olympic Games.

High competition begins around the age of 19, remaining in the elite from 12 to 16 years.

Sports Technification Centers and High Performance Centers contribute to the comprehensive training of the athlete.

The abandonment of the national team depends on other institutional factors that affect the continuity of the fighter. 

  • Study the importance of the sports and social context in the training process of Olympic Wrestlers. 

In the closest social environment, family and colleagues have been essential.

The coaches are characterized by their dedication and dedication, although with some technical-tactical deficiencies.

The creation of Sports Technification Centers, starting in 2000, allows fighters greater social cohesion by being close to the family environment.

Sports training and academic training in parallel is considered fundamental.

  • Analyze the different components of the sports training of Olympic fighters.

In the first place is the Technique, simultaneous to the Tactics as the most important component.

Second place Physical Condition, prevailing force in all its manifestations, followed by resistance and speed.

Third place is the psychological aspect that is key in the high competition stage, considering motivation and self-confidence as the determining and important variables in sports performance and predictors of success.

  • Make proposals around the sports training of Olympic fighters

The ideal trainer: an expert in Olympic wrestling, a graduate of higher education, who is capable of inspiring, motivating and communicating at all times with his elite athletes, forming a family group and with full and professional dedication.

That the institutional system guarantees adequate and full development in each stage of the athlete.

The future requires a trinity of interaction: the genetic potential of talent, the sports training process, and socioeconomic factors.

Email:   Phone: 696461793

Argudo Fuentes, Carlos Antonio (2020). The Sports Training Process of the Spanish Olympic Wrestler. Doctoral thesis Murcia: University of Murcia.

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