Georgian Leri Khabelovi was the world’s best freestyle heavyweight wrestler in the late 1980s and early 1990s. After winning the 1982 World Cadets Championships and 1983 World Junior and 1984 European Junior Championships, Khabelovi made the Soviet national team in 1985 and immediately dominated in the senior ranks. After winning the 1985 and 1987 World Championships, and the 1985, 1987 and 1988 European Championships, Khabelovi was unanimously considered the main favorite for 1988 Olympic freestyle heavyweight gold. At the Olympics, however, after winning five matches, three of them by fall, Khabelovi unexpectedly lost to Romanian Vasile Puşcaşu by decision in the gold medal match and had to settle for a silver. After the 1988 Olympics, Kabelovi again established himself as the world’s best heavyweight freestyle wrestler by winning world titles in 1990-91 and the 1992 European title and again went to the Olympics as the favorite for freestyle heavyweight gold. This time, Khabelovi did not disappoint and won gold. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Khabelovi decided to represent Russia instead of his native Georgia and won the 1993 World title. After his 1993 victory, however, Khabelovi moved to the super-heavyweight class, but was not very successful. He won only bronze at the 1995 World and European Championships and decided to move back to heavyweight. As a heavyweight, Khabelovi was selected for the 1996 Russian Olympic team but, by then past his prime, he was eliminated early.
Domestically, Khabelovi won Soviet titles in 1985, 1987 and 1988 and a Russian super-heavyweight title in 1993. Khabelovi retired from sports after the 1996 Olympics and moved back to his native Georgia. He was head coach of the Georgian national freestyle team and, from 2000-07, vice-president of the Georgian National Olympic Committee. From 1998-2004 he was deputy chairman of the sports department of the Georgian Ministry of Culture. In 2008 Khabelovi entered politics, but failed in a bid for the Georgian parliament. In 2012, however, he was elected to the Georgian parliament and became the chairman of the parliamentary Committee for Sport and Youth Affairs. In 2006 he was elected to the FILA International Wrestling Hall of Fame.