Speed Skating

Hall of Fame

Born: July 1, 1963 - Vorsha (URS)

Igor Nikolayevich Zhelezovski (born July 1, 1963 in Orsha, Belarus) is a former speed skater who first competed for the Soviet Union, then for the Commonwealth of Independent States, and finally for Belarus. Zhelezovski is considered to be one of the best sprinters of all time. He became World Sprint Champion a record number of six times. With his impressive physical appearance, he received nicknames like “The Bear from Minsk” and “Igor the terrible”.

Early years
In 1982 at the age of 18 Zhelezovski finished second at the World championships allround for juniors. The Norwegian Geir Karlstad defeated him and took the gold medal. During this tournament in Innsbruck Zhelezovski won the 1500 meters. After this allround tournament, Zhelezovski realized that he should develop his sprinting skills. Under the guidance of trainer Valery Muratov he became one of the strongest skaters on the 500m, 1000m and even the 1500 meters. However, the Soviet Union did not delegated Zhelezovski to the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo.

Six time world champion
In Heerenveen 1985, Igor Zhelezovski became world sprint champion for the first time. He defeated reigning world champion Gaetan Boucher from Canada with an impressive performance. During this tournament, Zhelezovski became the first skater ever to race both 500 meters in less than 38 seconds. He managed to extend his world title in 1986. Another outstanding performance by Zjelezovski came during the world sprint championships of 1989. On the first day of the tournament in Thialf stadium in Heerenveen, he established a world record on the 1000m. On the second day, he broke the world record on the sprint combination with a score of 145.945.

After that, Zhelezovski became world champion again in 1991, 1992 and 1993. His favorite and his strongest distance was the 1000m. More than once, he beat his competitors with a big difference. During his six world sprint titles, Zhelezovski participated twelve times on the 1000m. Twelve times, he became number one.

Success at the Olympic Games is not for everyone. Even the greatest icons of speed skating like Jeremy Wotherspoon and Rintje Ritsma never managed to conquer an Olympic gold medal. Also, Igor Zhelezovski belongs to this select group of skaters. In three appearances at the Olympics, the powerhouse from Minsk, was not capable to win the gold medal.

For many people, Zhelezovski was the man to beat on both the 1000m and the 1500m at the Calgary 1988 Olympics. In the run-up to the Olympic Games, he impressed with a world record on the 1500m of 1.52,50. However, during the Games Zhelezovski came up short. He finished fourth on the 1500m and additionally lost his world record to André Hoffmann. Also on his favorite 1000m, the Bear from Minsk did not succeed in his mission. He won bronze, but missed the gold medal by just 0,16 seconds to Nikolay Gulyayev. On the outdoor track of Albertville in 1992, Zhelezovski got no further than place six on the 1000m. This time he lost by only 0,2 seconds.

At the age of 30 Zhelezovski continued chasing his Olympic dream to win gold on the 1000m. At the 1994 Hamar Olympics, Zhelezovski skated a strong race. He finished in a time of 1.12,72, the fastest time to that point. Zhelezovski could not enjoy his first place for long. Not much later the American Dan Jansen skated an amazing race. In a time of 1.12,43 he broke the world record and took the gold. The only thing left for Zhelezovski was a silver medal. Not long after the 1994 Olympics he decided to end his impressive career.

Pieter Vankan, January 28, 2014

Career summary

Podia at championships

19851 World Championship SprintHeerenveenNED
19861 World Championship SprintKaruizawaJPN
19883 Olympic Winter Games 1000 metersCalgaryCAN
19891 World Championship SprintHeerenveenNED
19903 World Championship SprintTromsøNOR
19911 World Championship SprintInzellGER
19921 World Championship SprintOsloNOR
19931 World Championship SprintIkahoJPN
19942 Olympic Winter Games 1000 metersLillehammerNOR

World Records

11500 meters1:54.26Mar 26, 1983MedeoKAZ
21500 meters1:52.50Dec 5, 1987CalgaryCAN
31000 meters1:12.58Feb 25, 1989HeerenveenNED
4Sprint combination145.945Feb 25/26, 1989HeerenveenNED

Personal Bests

500m0:36.51Mar 13, 1993HeerenveenNED
1000m1:12.58Feb 25, 1989HeerenveenNED
1500m1:52.50Dec 5, 1987CalgaryCAN
3000m4:23.61Jan 14, 1991InzellGER

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