History was made when Zhan Beleniuk earlier this week became Ukraine’s first-ever black lawmaker to win gold at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Beleniuk, who was born to a Ukrainian mother and a father from Rwanda, claimed a first gold medal for Ukraine at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after defeating Hungary’s Viktor Lorincz 5-1 in the men’s 87-kilogram Greco-Roman wrestling final held at Makuhari Messe event hall in Tokyo, Japan.
The country’s first-ever black lawmaker, Beleniuk is a member of Parliament in the Ukrainian parliament since 2019, representing President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party where he serves as the first deputy head of the parliamentary Committee on Youth and Sports.
In the showpiece event, the 30-year-old took down Lorincz, who he also beat into silver in the world championships in 2019, in 5-1.
The victory didn’t come easy, though, as the Hungarian dug in to win the first point and there was a delay before the Ukrainian got on the scoreboard, but when he did there was no going back at the Makuhari Messe Hall.
It had been 25 years since Ukraine had won its first-ever Olympic gold in wrestling and it was time to celebrate the second when Beleniuk claimed one.
Ukraine’s first Olympic gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling went to Vyacheslav Oliynyk who won the 90kg at Atlanta 1996.
He also became Ukraine’s first Greco-Roman wrestler to collect multiple medals at the Olympic Games after winning silver in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.
“Now I’m an Olympic champion, and that was my dream,” the 30-year-old reacted after claiming gold in Tokyo and bringing Ukraine to its fourth medal in wrestling.
Parviz Nasibov settled for silver Wednesday as he was defeated by Mohammad Reza Geraei of Iran in the men’s 67-kilogram Greco-Roman wrestling. Earlier, Ukraine’s Iryna Koliadenko won bronze in women’s 62-kilogram freestyle wrestling, while Alla Cherkasova came in third in the 68-kilogram category.
Beleniuk is a two-time world champion and a three-time European champion in wrestling.