Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko have been in Ukraine since the 3rd of July. The first half of 2004 has kept the brothers busy and now they’re seeing friends and family as well as keeping a few business appointments. Always top on the list of things to do is taking care of the various charities that they sponsor for youth and the disadvantaged. This allows us a chance to take a look back at pivotal and key moments in the careers of these famous Ukrainian athletes. Things really got rolling in 1996, when Wladimir won Olympic gold for heavyweight boxing in Atlanta in 1996.
Wladimir was just twenty years old when he won the gold medal
As the holder of the most valuable world champion boxing belt, Vitali currently stands in the forefront of the Klitschko story. This has not always been the case, however. It was Wladimir who prepared the way for the professional careers of both brothers. On the 4th of August, 1996, Wladimir won Olympic gold in the heavyweight boxing category for athletes weighing in at over 91 kilograms. At that time, the young Ukrainian was just twenty years old. The world of professional heavyweight boxing lay far ahead.
Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic flame in 1996
When the Olympic Games opened in Atlanta on the 19th of July, 1996, Wladimir had a long road ahead of him. In order to win the prestigious Olympic gold, it was necessary for Wladimir to fight not one but a total of five matches in order to win. The opening of the Games drew the attention of boxing fans the world over as Muhammad Ali, the most important boxer of the 20th century, lit the Olympic flame and commemorated the opening of the Games even though he was already suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Ali’s career began with an Olympic victory many years before in 1960, when, before his conversion to Islam, he won Olympic gold in Rome competing while still using his birth name, Cassius Clay.
The semi-final as revenge for the European championship
After victories in the first and second rounds, Wladimir also didn’t have a problem qualifying when fighting against the Swede Attila Levin in the quarter final. Now it was down to the semi-final, which is particularly significant in Olympic boxing. Already on the morning of the 2nd of August, 1996, it was clear that if Wladimir won the semi-final, he’d not only continue to the finals, he’s also be guaranteed a silver medal. On the third-to-the-last day of the Games in Atlanta, Wladimir was especially interested in victory for another reason. His opponent was the Russian Alexej Lesin. In addition to the intense traditional rivalry between Ukraine and Russia, Lesin was also the man to whom Wladimir had lost the European championship shortly before the Olympics. For the Olympic fight, however, the young Ukrainian kept the upper hand against Lesin and championed with a score of 4:1.
After five rounds, Wladimir stood at the top
For the finale fight, Wladimir was faced with Paea Wolfgramm from Tonga. At more than 130 kilograms, he weighed a great deal more than Wladimir at the time. The star athlete from Kiev was unshaken, nonetheless. Thanks to his speed and mobility, the younger Klitschko’s skilled technique won him the match with an impressive 7:3. Winning the gold medal paved the way for his future. Both Klitschkos, Vitali and Wladimir, moved to Germany in the autumn of 1996 and started their professional careers. Wladimir’s Olympic victory also won him the hearts of many American fans. After all, the Games took place in the heart of the American south, Atlanta, Georgia.