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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 men's 87-kilogram Greco-Roman wrestling.
Gold medalist Zhan Beleniuk of Ukraine celebrates on the podium during the medal ceremony for men's 87-kilogram Greco-Roman wrestling.

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 at the Olympics and taking home the gold — the first for Ukraine at the Tokyo Games.

Beleniuk beat out Viktor Lorincz of Hungary 5-1 to win his second-ever Olympic medal. He won silver at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, making him Ukraine'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.

Ukraine's Zhan Beleniuk (left) and Hungary's Viktor Lorincz compete during the men's 87-kilogram Greco-Roman wrestling final match at the Olympics on Aug. 4 in Japan.
Aaron Favila / AP
Ukraine's Zhan Beleniuk (left) and Hungary's Viktor Lorincz compete during the men's 87-kilogram Greco-Roman wrestling final match at the Olympics on Aug. 4 in Japan.

Beleniuk, who was born to a Rwandan father and Ukrainian mother, started wrestling at 9 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.

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