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  • Leonid Zhabotinsky, 77, Olympic Weightlifter


    (ATR) The Olympic Movement is mourning the passing of Leonid Zhabotinsky, a record-breaking Ukrainian-born Soviet weightlifter.

    Zhabotinsky at the 1968 Mexcio City Olympics (Getty Images)
    Famously winning Olympic gold medals at the 1964 and 1968 Games, Zhabotinsky died last Thursday, Jan. 14, in Zaporozhye, Ukraine. He was 77.

    Zhabotinsky's son Ruslan announced his death.

    Last year, Ruslan Zhabotinsky published a book about his father's life titled "My Father - Leonid Zhabotinsky."

    In it, he writes, "Leonid Zhabotinsky - a nugget, genius of sports, which can be born once in hundred years.

    "I have my own way and my own serious life goals and objectives.

    "One of them is to keep and increase the glory of the Zhabotinsky family, pass to the younger generation a baton of the person who, like a star is shining on the Sports Olympus of the twentieth century."

    A copy of Ruslan Zhabotinsky's book about his father's life titled "My Father - Leonid Zhabotinsky." (ATR)
    The International Weightlifting Federation published a statement last Thursday.

    "The Ukrainian giant, four-times world champion and holder of 19 world records, was rightly called in his time 'The Strongest Man of the World,'" the IWF said.

    "A role model to the young, he was not only talented but also a hard worker that enabled him to reach the peak of any weightlifter's career twice."

    Zhabotinsky was approximately six feet three inches tall and weighed nearly 365 pounds. He competed in the superheavy weightlifting division.

    Born in Uspenska, Ukraine on Jan. 28, 1938, Leonid Ivanovich Zhabotinsky looked up to his father, Ivan Philipovich, who was an amateur athlete. His family later moved to Kharkov, where they endured Nazi occupation.

    Zhabotinsky quit school after eighth grade and took up work at a local tractor plant. He signed up for evening classes to finish high school and went on to become a shot-put champion. As a teenager, Zhabotinsky studied under Mikhail Svetlichny, the plant's resident weightlifting trainer.

    Later in life, Zhabotinsky coached the Soviet Army in weightlifting (Getty Images)
    He won a bronze medal at his first Ukrainian state championship in 1957. In 1963, Zhabotinsky broke his first of 19 world superheavyweight records. He set his last in 1974, with a snatch of almost 409 pounds at the Moscow Championship of the Soviet Army.

    After winning gold at the 1964 Tokyo Games, Zhabotinsky marched in the opening ceremony of the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. He earned his second gold medal at those Games.

    Sidelined by surgery in 1969, Zhabotinsky earned his doctorate from the Kharkov Pedagogical Institute during his hiatus from weightlifting. He returned to competition in 1973.

    Zhabotinsky coached the Soviet Army in weightlifting. He left the military in 1991 as a colonel and later worked for the Moscow Institute of Business and Law.

    In addition to his son Ruslan, Zhabotinsky is survived by his wife, Raisa, and another son, Vilen. Both Ruslan and Vilen are weightlifters.

    Written by Nicole Bennett

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