It’s with great sadness that the ISU learned of the passing away of Igor Zhelezovsky. The six times ISU World Sprint Speed Skating champion died from Covid-19 in hospital at age 57 on June 12.
Born and raised in Belarus, Zhelezovsky won his first four ISU World Sprint Speed Skating Titles as a Soviet skater in 1985, 1986 1989 and 1991. It earned him the title Master of Sports of the USSR. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he went on to win the title as part of the team from the so-called Commonwealth of Independent States in 1992 and winning his last world title in 1993 he defended the Belarussian honor.Being impressively big and strong Zhelezovsky, was nicknamed the Bear of Minsk. Apart from his world titles he also broke several world records. His 1989 Heerenveen world 1000m record of 1:12.58 stood for four years. He also broke the 1500m world record twice and set the world’s best samalog sprint result with 145.945 points in Heerenveen in 1989.
Igor Zhelezovsky©Skating Union of Belarus
Zhelezovsky was a specialist in the 1000m event and his unique mastering of this distance was both a frustration and inspiration to contemporary sprinters. He won the distance an impressive 12 times in World Sprint Championships, but never won an Olympic title. He managed to clinch Olympic bronze at the 1988 Games in Calgary and silver at the 1994 Games in Lillehammer. The two time ISU World Sprint Speed Skating Champion Dan Jansen, who denied Zhelezovsky the 1000m gold at the Lillehammer Games by setting a new World Record, reacted to the news of his sudden death with these words: "Thanks for making all of us better. Rest in peace big man".
After he retired as a Speed Skater, Zhelezovsky served as the President of the Belarus Skating Union between 1996 and 2005 and was an active delegate at several ISU Congresses. He later became a successful businessman selling ceramic products in Russia and former Soviet states. In a 2010 interview with Dutch NOS television he said that he thought of returning to the Speed Skating track at the age of sixty to train children, but fate struck before he could fulfill this dream.
The ISU extends its most sincere condolences to his family and his many friends in the Speed Skating world. Igor Nikolaevich Zhelezovsky will be remembered as one of the true greats in Speed Skating history.