March 22nd, 2019

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Big in Japan: Leonid Zhabotinsky and Alexey Medvedev in Tokyo (1964)


History in Color:

October 1964, Tokyo, Japan – Members of the Soviet Olympic weightlifting team, Leonid Zhabotinsky (left) of Zaporozhye, Ukraine and his coach Alexey Medvedev are having a bicycle ride in the Olympic village during the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.


Both Zhabotinsky and Medvedev were rather underdogs at the time. Leonid Zhabotinsky was selected as a heavyweight back-up to the Olympic champion Yury Vlasov, the strongest man in the world.


Alexey Medvedev was also a heavyweight champion in his times. He just retired from competing as an athlete in 1962, two years ago. His turn to run the national team USSR was not even foreseen yet. Legendary Arkady Vorobyev was the head coach of the national team. He ran the show at the time.


It all changed on October 18, 1964 when Leonid Zhabotinsky won his gold medal in the 90+kg class with an Olympic record in total (572.5kg=187.5+167.5+217.5) and a world record in clean-and-jerk (217.5kg). The battle in Tokyo between two giants, Vlasov and Zhabotinsky became one of the biggest stories in the history of Olympic weightlifting and, perhaps, in the history of the Olympics overall.


After his big win in Tokyo, Leonid Zhabotinsky was crowned as the “strongest man in the world”. He held this title till the end of the 1960’s. He won his second Olympics in Mexico City in 1968, set 19 world records, won 4 World and 2 European titles.


As for Alexey Medvedev, he received the Honored Coach of the USSR title for training Alexey Vakhonin, Rudolf Plyukfelder and Leonid Zhabotinsky who became Olympic champions in Tokyo.


But all of the glory and honors came to Leonid Zhabotinsky and Alexey Medvedev a few days after black-and-white original of the History in Color cover photo was made in the Olympic village in Japan.