MOSCOW (AP) Soviet weightlifting great Leonid Zhabotinsky, who won two Olympic gold medals and set multiple world records, has died at the age of 77 following a long illness.
The Ukrainian Weightlifting Federation said Zhabotinsky died on Wednesday night, and paid tribute to him as an ''outstanding Ukrainian athlete.''
Federation general secretary Boris Lobko told The Associated Press that Zhabotinsky was ill for the past year and a half.
Zhabotinsky won the super heavyweight class at the 1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico City Olympics, and was known for a light-hearted approach to the sport, in contrast to his longtime Soviet rival Yuri Vlasov, the 1960 gold medalist, who had a reputation as an intellectual.
At the 1964 Games, Zhabotinsky tricked defending champ Vlasov into believing he couldn't beat Vlasov, when he failed his second clean and jerk. But after Vlasov finished and led the competition, Zhabotinsky used his last clean and jerk to hoist a world record and win the gold.
Zhabotinsky was the Soviet flagbearer in Mexico City, where he won the gold medal again with ease.
As a leading Soviet athlete, Zhabotinsky's death brought tributes from Russia and Ukraine, where he was born and lived in later life. Both countries' sports ministries issued statements of tribute.