“For many years, guys!”: The tragic death of the youngest Olympic champion of the USSR

More than 17 years ago, one of the great Soviet cyclists passed away under tragic circumstances.

On New Year’s Eve 2004 vs. 2005, Olympic champion from Seoul 1988 Dmitry Nelyubin went out to his yard to light fireworks. A group of celebrating young people approached him, and the then 33-year-old Nelyubin called out to them: “For many years!”, without paying them much attention. Seconds later he was attacked and beaten, and a stab wound proved fatal.


Dmitry’s father, Vladislav Nelyubin, is also a successful cyclist. He was born in the city of Frunze – that’s what Bishkek used to be called, which today is the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Vladislav’s best achievement is a silver medal from the road championship of the socialist countries.

In 1971, Vladislav welcomed the birth of his son Dmitry. By that time, the young family had already moved to Leningrad. Over the years, the boy became passionate about cycling and at the Olympics in 1988, Dmitry became the youngest Olympic champion in the history of Soviet sports. He was only 17 years old then. Gold in Seoul was won in the team pursuit.

After that, Nelyubin won first places at world championships for juniors and made prizes ranked at worlds for men. The athlete ended his career in 1997, but his life remained connected with cycling and opened a bicycle shop.

The New Year’s Eve Murder

About the tragic incident in the yard of Dmitri’s house on the eve of 2005, his friend Yuri Smirnov tells: “I think Dmitri didn’t even manage to understand what was happening. His attention was completely focused on the fireworks. He turned around and hit him. That’s it. I think if he’d seen them coming at him he’d have had time to do something.”

The sudden and completely unprovoked attack is perhaps not the strangest thing in this whole story. After all, there are always and everywhere frankly inadequate and aggressive people. But here’s what happens next. Dmitry’s fiancee, Natalya, tries to call the police and an ambulance, but is unable to get through for 20 minutes.

During this time, friends of the wounded Nelyubin decided to take him to the hospital themselves. The wounded man was taken to the emergency department of the Pavlov Medical University, but no one paid attention to him. Eventually, Dmitri ends up at a Military Medical Academy, where doctors are finally found who try to save his life. However, it is already too late. The Olympic champion died of blood loss.

The investigation

When the information about the murder of the famous sportsman reaches the law enforcement agencies, the investigation is conducted under the supervision of senior police chiefs. The St. Petersburg prosecutor’s office issued a statement that the disclosure of this crime was “a matter of honor.”

In the minutes fatal to Dmitri’s life, it is quite dark, but there are witnesses to the murder, according to whose testimony, a photo robot is even made of some of the attackers. Someone says that he saw the company of drunken youths in question coming out of the dormitory of the medical institute, located not far from Nelyubin’s house. Moreover, one of the witnesses even names people from the aggressive company.

All this, oddly enough, does not help to close the case quickly. Despite all the available data, the case was not brought forward immediately. Only in 2008 did the authorities manage to find the killer. It turned out to be Alim Azhagoev, a native of Kabardino-Balkaria. The court sentenced him to 18 years in prison for his act.

Azhagoev has been asked countless times what causes his aggression, but he never gives an adequate explanation.

His sentence is for hooligan murder, and Nelyubin’s family accepts it as fair. The Olympic champion’s mother, Olga Nelyubina, told journalists: “Of course, I can’t bring my boy back, but justice has prevailed.”

The investigators who worked on unraveling the case are receiving gifts from the Russian Cycling Federation.


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