Belenki, Valeri : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Belenki, Valeri


Country Represented:
Unified Team (Azerbaijan), Germany

Years Competed:
1992, 1996

Medals Received:
gold, bronze

Olympic Info:
One of the best male gymnasts in the world in the 1990s, Belenki competed in two Olympiads. At the 1992 Barcelona Games, he was a member of the Unified Team's men's gymnastics team; the Unified Team consisted of athletes from countries of the former Soviet Union.

In Barcelona, Belenki helped the Unified Team capture the gold medal in the team combined exercises. In the individual events, Belenki won the bronze medal in the individual all-around, placed fifth in both the rings events and the horinzontal bar, and seventh in the pommel horse.

Belenki emigrated to Germany in 1994 and returned to the Olympics four years later at the 1996 Atlanta Games as a member of the German gymnastics team. Valeri placed sixth in the all-around competition and seventh in the team combined exercises.

Career Highlights:
Valeri began his gymnastics career in the Soviet Union in the late 1970s and 1980s. By the early 1990s, he was one of the top gymnasts in the world, winning the vault at the 1991 World Championships. Two years later at the Worlds, Valeri finished sixth in the individual all-around and third in the parallel bars.

Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, he was supposed to compete for Azerbaijan, but the country did not have an organized gymnastics federation, so Belenki moved to Germany and became a German citizen. At the 1994 World Championships, he competed for Germany and finished fourth in the all-around, tied for third in the rings, and placed seventh in the pommel horse. At the 1994 Team World Championships, he helped the German team finish fifth overall.

In the second half of the 1990s, Valeri continued to compete at the international level for Germany, placing fifth in the individual all-around at the 1995 World Championships and leading the Germans to a seventh place team finish. In 1997, he won the pommel horse at the World Championships and placed fourth in the rings as the Germans finished in sixth place.

Valeri competed at a high level as the 1990s ended, but a shoulder injury early in 2000 ended his chances of participating in a third straight Olympic Games. The injury also threatened to end his competitive career, but Valeri competed in the 2001 World Championships before retiring. Germany finished 13th in the competition. Belenki has now started coaching.

Based on archived world rankings from, Belenki was ranked in the top ten in 1990, 1992-1997. He was No. 1 in the world in 1990 and only dropped to No. 12 in 1998.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. Sept. 5, 1969

Baku, Azerbaijan

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Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, by Joseph Siegman (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 2000)