An Ukrainian wrestler who won his country’s only gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics said he was racially abused when he returned from the Games.
#Ukraine's Olympic champion and MP Zhan Beleniuk reported a conflict with a group of unidentified men in central Kyiv, who tried to provoke him by yelling a racist slur, Beleniuk wrote on Facebook. Despite the provocations, no physical contact occured, according to the Ukrainian. pic.twitter.com/RIaJSOusPi
— Hromadske Int. (@Hromadske) August 13, 2021
Zhan Beleniuk, 30, is a two-time world wrestling champion who also became Ukraine’s first black lawmaker when he entered parliament for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People Party in 2019.
He celebrated his victory by performing a traditional Ukrainian dance named Hopak while holding the flag.
Ukrainian police have launched an investigation.
“Beleniuk is our hero, this is a provocation,” said Oleksandr Pastukhov, the spokesperson of the Ukrainian Federation of Greco-Roman and Sports Wrestling.
Beleniuk, was born to an Ukrainian mother and a Rwandan father. He has previously mentioned that he had been racially abused as a child.
At the Olympics, he won the Greco-Roman middleweight gold by beating Hungary’s Viktor Lorincz in the final. He also won a medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016.