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Ukraine’s First Black Lawmaker Is Now Also Its First Gold Medalist In Tokyo

Gold medalist Zhan Beleniuk of Ukraine celebrates on the podium during the medal ceremony for the men's 87kg Greco-Roman wrestling.
Image credit: Aaron Favila

Zhan Beleniuk takes his job pretty seriously.

He’s Ukraine’s first Black lawmaker and the first deputy head of the Committee on Youth and Sports in parliament. “The main goal is to develop sports in Ukraine, the sports movement, so that our nation could be healthy, athletic, and show good results in the international arena,” he said in a 2019 interview.

On Wednesday he led by example, competing in the Greco-Roman 87-kilogram wrestling event in Tokyo and taking home the gold.

Beleniuk beat out Viktor Lorincz of Hungary 5-1 to win his second ever Olympic medal. He won silver at the Rio Olympics in 2016, making him the country’s first Greco-Roman wrestler to win multiple medals at the Olympic games.

“Now I’m an Olympic champion, and that was my dream,” he said.

Beleniuk, who was born to a Rwandan father and Ukrainian mother, started wrestling at nine years old.

In July 2019, he was elected to parliament but said he was devoting his time to competing in Tokyo.

“My first goal is the Olympic Games [in Tokyo], but it’s only a year. After that, I will be 100% devoted to Ukrainian politics,” he said in 2019.

With Olympic gold now in hand, it’s back to his day job.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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