Table of contents:
- Sick child, crawling up to 4 years old, and miraculous healing
- Teenage binges, the police and a lucky break
- Athletic takeoffs and daring Olympic champion
- Alcohol, gravedigger and death at the hands of his own son
At the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, an unprecedented victory took place: the weightlifter from the USSR Alexei Vakhonin managed not only to push the barbell with a record weight for himself and fix it. He went further, putting in place all the champions participating and entering the sports history of the world. According to legend, as a child, Alexei Kunov (the athlete's family name) was treated for a serious illness in a Russian oven. But having glorified the Soviet Union, the record holder drank himself to death and tragically passed away.
Sick child, crawling up to 4 years old, and miraculous healing
Alexey Kunov - the last name of the athlete before his first marriage - was born in 1935 in the Kemerovo region. The boy did not go until he was four years old due to rickets. Once the doctors had to save a child crawling around the yard and attacked by a pig. This incident postponed the recovery of the ailing Alyosha for some time. According to legend, the future athlete was saved by witchcraft manipulations in a Russian oven. Allegedly, the child was wrapped in burdock leaves and placed in a kindled Russian stove. Whether it is a fairy tale or a fairy tale, it is impossible to verify. But at some point the child got stronger, got up and walked. Several years passed, and Alexei turned into a strong broad-shouldered big man, although his height barely reached 160 cm.
Teenage binges, the police and a lucky break
There was no opportunity to learn from Alexei. At the age of 8, he lost his father and was forced to help his mother, who was feeding six children. It was difficult to call Kunov an angelic child. In addition to the family obligations assigned to him, other realities fell on him too early. By the age of 9, Alexey shamelessly smoked, and after 12 he was already experiencing a craving for alcohol. All this was accompanied by fights and regular transfers to the police. Kunov lived with one leg in prison. The guy's rescue was the coach-athlete Ivan Zhukov, who paid attention to his natural inclinations in time.
Zhukov managed to lure the 18-year-old bully into the weightlifting section. Alexei became so interested in the new hobby that he even stopped drinking for a while. After a while, however, he lost his temper and even spent several weeks in the bullpen. From there he was lucky to be released thanks to the patronage of his uncle, who served in the regional prosecutor's office. Kunov's next lucky star was a meeting with an experienced athlete Rudolf Plükfelder. The latter was imbued with sincere sympathy for the tough boy and set himself the goal of developing his abilities. In the fall of 1957, in a conversation with the party organizer, Rudolph presented Alexei as a nugget capable of growing into a great weightlifter.
So Kunov became a resident of Kiselevsk, where he was placed in a mine mechanic shop as a blacksmith. Hard physical work with a hammer acted for Kunov at the same time a gym and a massage room. By that time, the weightlifter had managed to get married and divorced a few days later. From the first wife, Alexei left her last name, becoming famous in the future as Vakhonin.
Athletic takeoffs and daring Olympic champion
Under the leadership of Plyukfelder at his new place of residence, Vakhonin plunged into an intensive training process. Barely able to read and write, Vakhonin completely trusted the coach and methodically carried out all his instructions.The coach managed not only to develop the potential of the athlete at a high rate, but also to keep his tough temper in tight control. Soon, Alexei got married for the second time and was already raising two sons. Sports victories came one after another. Vakhonin took the national championship in weight up to 56 kg. In the USSR in those days, victory was more difficult than at international championships. Then there was another move, following the mentor, to Shakhty, where the Vakhonin family received a good apartment.
After victory within the Union came a confident victory at the Stockholm World Championship, which became the main step towards the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, to which Vakhonin went in the status of a real favorite. And there he threw out such a trick, which hardly anyone would dare to repeat. Hungarian Imre Feldi fought for gold with Vakhonin in the final. It was all about the last try. Imre pushed a weight of 137 kg, and Alexei had to conquer as much as 142.5 kg to win, which at that time seemed incredible. The almost world champion approached the bar with a daring cry about the miner's fortitude to the already jubilant Hungarians ("… you know the miners!"). Taking a record weight on his chest and pushing it out, Vakhonin fixed the barbell and lifted one leg. He stood calmly, allowing the photographers to capture this sensation, and just as calmly lowered the shell onto the platform. At the same time, in the category up to 82.5 kg, his coach Plukfelder also took gold.
Alcohol, gravedigger and death at the hands of his own son
In the USSR, after such a trick, Vakhonin returned not just an Olympic champion in clean and jerk and triathlon, but a truly national hero. Even in Tokyo, he was honored by the city mayor, and at the ceremonial reception in the capital, Alexei was awarded the title of Honored Master of Sports. But despite the clearly outlined prospects, the situation unfolded exactly the opposite. First of all, Vakhonin failed the world championship in Tehran, having taken off outright from the personal championship. Inexplicable recessions followed on his heels. Family life has also leaked out.
The wife, as it turned out, went into binges, drinking away even household utensils. Bad rumors thickened around the name of yesterday's champion, and the Olympics in Mexico City as part of the national team came into question. The decisive participation in the European championship ended in third place, and Vakhonin started drinking. Vorobyov, the senior coach of the Soviet national team, found the weightlifter unconscious on the floor among a mountain of empty bottles. After this episode, Vakhonin's sports career lasted for two years. From time to time he still managed to take prizes in the USSR, but the athlete resigned himself to the decline of his former glory and gave up sports. Without even having a school education, Vakhonin could not even work as a physical education teacher.
The wife left, the accumulated funds ran out, and the allied star finally went down. World champion Vakhonin went to the gravediggers. Once one of his sons came to see him, the meeting traditionally turned into a drinking bout. The relatives warmed up by alcohol recalled some past grievances, and Vakhonin Jr. grabbed the knife. The arriving policemen recorded the death. This is how the story of the champion, who could not bear the change of national glory to oblivion, ended.
Even such eminent people as Arnold Schwarzenegger have their idols. It will be all the more surprising to learn that the idol of iron Arnie - Russian strongman Leonid Zhabotinsky, who over the years broke all world records and became a legend not only of Soviet, but also of world sports.
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