Heavyweight boxing icon Oleksandr Usyk placed his Olympic gold medal in his father’s coffin after he passed away.
While his father was battling sickness, Usyk won gold at the London 2012 Olympics. Although Usyk did not meet his father before his death, Usyk was able to inform him that he became the Olympic champion.
Usyk recalled: “My father was a tough man. He never told me sentimental words but, when I won the Olympics, he was already very sick.”
Tragedy struck a few days later, with Usyk’s mother delivering the sad news of his father’s passing.
“I called him on the phone that evening and he told me he loved me. He said, ‘Now I’m ready to take death’. I told him, ‘This is only the beginning for us, there are professional belts,’ but a few days later my mum called at 2.30am and said, ‘That’s it, Dad’s gone’.”
“I flew to Chernihiv, where they lived, and, when I entered the room, he was lying in a wooden coffin. I took the medal and put it in his hand and said, ‘Here you go’. I know he’s up there in the skies watching me and he’s proud. I think about him every day, and I never miss a chance to tell my children that I love them.”
Usyk was quite emotionally connected to his father. He often attributes his success to the mark his father left on him. The 37-year-old acknowledges him as the driving force behind his achievements.
Usyk stated: “God rest his soul. He was the one who always motivated and forced me to train and study. Everything I have now is down to him. He put so much into me, taught me about priorities in life, which are family, sport and education.”
A military man, his father not only imparted discipline but also unconventional skills, teaching his son the art of self-defense.
Usyk continued: “He was a military man, by the way. My mum hated it when he taught me how to fight with a knife. She’d shout ‘Sasha, he’ll grow up to be a criminal, what are you doing?’ He’d be like ‘Get away, if he knows how to do it, he will never use it on others but when he needs to protect someone, that’s when he’ll use it.’”
As Usyk ascends the professional boxing ranks, he carries his father’s legacy with every punch thrown. The heavyweight champion’s dedication to family and relentless pursuit of success mirror the priorities instilled by his late father.