Vladimir Parfenovich from Belarus was the best sprint kayaker in the world in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Parfenovich won three gold medals at the 1980 Olympics (K-1 500, K-2 500 and K-2 1,000) and was nine times world champion (1979, 1981-83 in K-1 500, 1979, 1981-82 in K-2 500 and 1981-82 in K-2 1,000). He also won three silvers at the World Championships (in 1978 in K-1 500, in 1983 in K-2 500 and in 1983 in K-2 1,000 m). Parfenovich also won 17 Soviet titles and 19 Soviet cups. Parfenovich retired from sports after the Soviets had decided to boycott the 1984 Olympics.
After finishing his sporting career, Parfenovich worked as a kayaking instructor and also served in KGB and police forces. From 1995-2007 he was the president of the Belarus Canoe-Kayak Federation. In 2000, Parfenovich went into politics and was elected to the Belarus Parliament, where he joined the parliamentary group Respublika, which is actively opposed to the authoritarian rule of President Aleksandr Lukashenko. On 3 June 2004, Parfenovich and two other members of parliament started a hunger-strike, protesting that the chair of the parliament didn't give them the floor for debate and did not put to vote their proposed amendments to the election code. The three politicians stopped the hunger strike after 18 days on 21 June, when parliament voted against their proposals. One month later on 21 July, 2004 on the 10th anniversary of Lukashenko's term in office, Parfenovich together with his colleagues organized a peaceful street protest which was roughly dispersed by the police. Parfenovich is also a member of Belorussian Olympic Committee.
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