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Olympic weightlifter from Ukraine dies fighting in war with Russia

By Kevin Dotson, CNN

(CNN) — Weightlifter Oleksandr Pielieshenko, who competed for Ukraine at the 2016 Rio Olympics, has died while fighting in his country’s war with Russia, according to statements from the Ukraine Olympic Committee and the Ukraine Weightlifting Federation posted Monday.

“On May 5, an honored master of sports of Ukraine Oleksandr Pielieshenko died in the war with the enemy; a contestant of the 2016 Olympic Games, where he took 4th place and a two-time European weightlifting champion,” Ukraine’s National Olympic Committee posted on social media.

“From the first days of the full-scale invasion, Oleksandr joined the ranks of the Armed Forces. Yesterday we received the sad news of his death. The Olympic family send its condolences to the athlete’s family, friends and relatives. Bright and eternal memory of the Hero!” the statement concluded.

The 30-year-old Pielieshenko was a two-time European gold medalist, winning the 85kg weight class at the 2016 and 2017 European Weightlifting Championships.

“We express our deepest condolences to the family and everyone who knew Oleksandr!” the Ukraine Weightlifting Federation said Monday in its statement.

CNN has reached out to the Ukraine Olympic Committee and the Ukraine Weightlifting Federation for more information.

Ukrainian national weightlifting coach Viktor Slobodianiuk said in a social media post: “War takes the best… Honored Master of Sports of Ukraine, two-time European champion, Olympic weightlifting contestant Oleksandr Pielieshenko heroically died defending Ukraine from invaders.

“I express my sincere condolences to the family and relatives of Oleksandr! This is a very heavy loss for the entire weightlifting community of Ukraine. Heroes don’t die.”

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CNN’s Mariya Knight contributed reporting.

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