Zhan Beleniuk will go home to Ukraine with a gold medal in his luggage after defeating Hungary’s Viktor Lorincz in Greco-Roman wrestling 87kg at Tokyo 2020.
The two-time world champion was jubilant to win the title and so were his team. After he was declared the winner he danced around the platform holding the Ukrainian flag. It had been 25 years since the country had won its first ever Olympic gold in wrestling and it was time to celebrate the second.
Beleniuk also became the nation’s first Greco-Roman wrestler to collect multiple medals at the Olympic Games: he won silver in Rio 2016. "Now I'm an Olympic champion, and that was my dream," he said.
In the showpiece event, the 30-year-old took down Lorincz, who he also beat into silver in the world championships in 2019, in 5-1. But it wasn’t easy. The 31-year-old dug in to win the first point and there was a delay before the Ukrainian got on the scoreboard, but when he did there was no going back at the Makuhari Messe Hall.
Beleniuk revealed that he had planned to attack in the second period of the match: “It was my strategy, but partially it was a coincidence that my opponent was weaker in the second round. Mainly I worked on defence, but the key thing, my most important throw, I could do. It didn’t matter if that was in the first or second period."
It was another strong win for him. In the semifinal he fought off a challenge from Croatia’s Ivan Hukler 7-1, and in earlier rounds beat Algeria’s Bachir Sid Azara 1-1 and Serbia’s Zurabi Datunashvili 3-1.
At 31, Lorincz became the oldest Hungarian athlete to claim an Olympic medal in Greco-Roman wrestling since Ferenc Seres won bronze in the 50kg event in Moscow 1980 at 34. His brother Tamas Lorincz won gold in the men’s Greco-Roman 77kg final at Tokyo 2020.
The first of the bronze medal matches was won by Germany’s Denis Maksymilian, a bronze medallist in Rio 2016, who defeated Egypt’s Mohamed Metwally by 8-1. The second bronze went to two-time European champion, Serbia’s Zurabi Datunashvili, 30, who overpowered Croatia’s Ivan Huklek, 24, by 6-1.
Ukraine’s first Olympic gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling went to Vyacheslav Oliynyk’s who won the 90kg at Atlanta 1996.