The first Mongolian athlete to ever win an Olympic Gold medal for his country has been jailed for the brutal murder of his childhood friend.
Naidangiin Tüvshinbayar, a champion judoka and the former president of the Mongolian National Olympic Committee, was handed a 16-year jail sentence by the court of the Khan-Uul district of the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar following a year-long and well-publicized trial that gripped the nation.
Tüvshinbayar had long been considered a national hero in Mongolia after becoming an Olympic champion at Beijing 2008 and winning a silver medal at the London 2012 Games. He went on to become a media darling, appearing on talk shows and Pepsi ads alike while also receiving the country’s highest honors.
The Olympic champion also had significant influence in Mongolia’s political sphere. According to Reuters, his athletic success “prompted leaders from feuding parties to join thousands of revelers in the streets to celebrate their champion.” He later became the campaign promoter of the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate Khaltmaagiin Battulga, a former world champion wrestler, who would eventually win the elections in 2017 in the second round with a narrow margin of 50.6 percent.
Less than four years later, Tüvshinbayar would be charged with murder following a drunken brawl with an old friend. The incident took place on April 2, 2021, when Tüvshinbayar meet with a few prominent Democratic Party figures from his native Zavkhan province. The Olympian was allegedly intoxicated and proceeded to attack and assault Erdenebilegiin Enkhbat, a childhood friend who was also a Mongolian wrestling star.
Tüvshinbayar attacked Enkhbat with a heavy object and left him with severe brain damage from the assault. The victim was hospitalized but passed away shortly therafter without regaining consciousness.
While many were hesitant to blame Tüvshinbayar for the attack at first, a year-long trial altered the nation’s perspective on their former hero.