In 1980, Zhaksylyk Ushkempirov, who took up wrestling in 1969, became the first ethnic Kazakh to win an Olympic gold. Before the Olympics, Ushkempirov, who wrestled in the Greco-Roman light-flyweight class his entire career, was virtually unknown, having made his international début just couple of months before the Olympics at the 1980 European Championships, where he won silver. After the Olympics, Ushkempirov won gold at the 1981 World Championships and silver at the 1982 World Cup. He was also Soviet Champion in 1975 and 1980. After finishing his sporting career, Ushkempirov worked as director of a sports school in Almaty from 1984-93 and in 1993 founded the sports club Zhaksylyk, where he worked as president. He was also active in animal husbandry, breeding cattle. Since 2001, an annual junior wrestling tournament in his honor has been held in Almaty.