Ukrainian champion guarded a Russian restaurant in Chicago: how our first Olympic boxing medalist lives
Rostyslav Zaulychnyi, the first Ukrainian boxer to win a medal at the Olympic Games, celebrated his 55th birthday in September. In 1992, having been selected for the CIS team from our country, he won a silver medal at the competition in Barcelona. The Lviv native himself believes that he won the final fight.
Representing the already independent Ukraine at the Games in Spain, Zaulychnyi defeated Nigerian Jacklord Jacobs, British Stephen Wilson and Hungarian Zoltan Beres in the 81 kg category. After that, he met German Torsten May in the final. The match was very competitive. However, according to the judges, the Ukrainian lost with a score of 3:8.
"I won the fight, but the only chance I had to win gold was if I knocked out the German. Neither I nor anyone else who met May at the Olympics had any other chance. He was taken out in many fights in Barcelona. I should have hit him, of course, but the gloves were not the same, the referee wouldn't let me..." Rostyslav later told gazeta.ua.
According to the boxer, not only talent and skill but also politics and connections decided everything in amateur boxing.
"You know, almost all the battles I lost were not lost by me but first by the USSR and then Ukraine. The Germans made champions of whomever they wanted. This is not surprising if you remember that the secretary general of the World Boxing Association was a German, Karl-Heinz Wehr," Zaulychnyi explained.
By the way, on the eve of the Barcelona Olympics final, the Ukrainian was in such a state that the national team's head coach Koptsev and doctor Nikolaev advised the boxer to drink 300 grams of wine and go to bed to relieve his psyche. However, he failed to win the gold medal...
German May later fought American Adolfo Washington for the IBF title but lost. Zaulychnyi continued his amateur career until 1997.
In the USSR, it was believed that Zaulychnyi was born into a dysfunctional family and was deprived of parental attention in his childhood in Lviv. However, it was his father who used to box in his youth and who brought his son to the gym. This decision was fateful for Rostyslav.
After the 1992 Olympic Games, Zaulychnyi became a bronze medalist at the 1993 World Championships in Tampere, Finland, and won the 1994 World Cup in Thailand. The Ukrainian broke the resistance of the number one seed in his category, Cuban Garbey, and the famous German Ottke in Bangkok. But the semifinal with Russian Islam Arsangaliev was the most dramatic event.
After the fight with the Russian representative, the computer concluded a draw. However, after recalculating the blows, the victory was given to Zaulychnyi The winners were presented with their trophies by the Prince of Thailand. On the way home, the athlete almost became a victim of a plane crash as the engine caught fire shortly after takeoff. Fortunately for the passengers, the plane was immediately returned to Bangkok. The steward admitted that if they had flown for another half hour, they would not have made it back.
Zaulychnyi played in the same team as the Klychko brothers, who were just taking their first steps on the road to worldwide recognition. The more experienced Rostyslav often sparred with both Volodymyr and Vitaly. He admitted that no one spared anyone in the ring.
Unfortunately, injuries prevented Zaulychnyi from winning a medal at the second Olympics. He tore his ligaments and damaged his meniscus. Ukrainian haven't performed for a year, arriving in Atlanta in 1996 not in the best shape: "I was not thinking about boxing. I thought only about how to put my foot right. I lost in the first fight."
After the failed Olympics, Rostyslav thought about ending his boxing career and saying goodbye to the sport. He decided that he would have more opportunities in the United States than in Ukraine in the 90s.
"Why didn't I turn professional? I couldn't box because of injuries, my joints were hurting. I decided to give up sports. Coaching was not very well paid back then. I also didn't know how to do anything but boxing. I decided to try living in America. I went to a kickboxing competition as part of a cheerleading squad. I stayed in Chicago illegally," Zaulychnyi told fakty.ua.
In 1998, Rostyslav moved in with friends in the Ukrainian neighborhood of Chicago, and a boxer friend helped him find a job as a bouncer at the Russian restaurant Metropol, where he was also a security guard. It is the same restaurant where the famous movie Brother 2 was once filmed. Of course, he had to use some professional skills from time to time.
"How can you work in a Russian restaurant without it? When they drink, they immediately start fighting. I had to explain the rules of behavior accordingly. I received $100 for working from nine in the evening to three in the morning. This money, of course, was not enough for a normal life. However, I met many important people..." the athlete recalled.
Zaulychnyi eventually became the head of the security service. Then, together with his second wife, Halyna, he opened his own company, which cleans offices, restaurants, shops and cinemas.
The Olympic medalist had not had the opportunity to come home for many years as he came to the United States illegally and was not allowed to come back by the federal immigration authorities. However, in 2008, he was finally able to fly to Ukraine for the first time since his immigration and meet his family and friends.
Earlier, OBOZREVATEL shared how people were arrested for showing the Ukrainian flag at the Olympics in Canada and how the first flag bearer performed in Russia after the invasion.