You could say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree for Frank Chamizo and his father, Pavel Chamizo, a Coca-Cola North America bulk driver in College Park, Ga. But a better phrase might be a chip off the old block. 


Because in Olympic freestyle wrestling, a “fall” is the same thing as being pinned – or losing. And lately, the younger Chamizo has enjoyed tremendous success as a freestyle wrestler, including his most recent triumph when he won a bronze medal for Italy at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Pavel jokingly claims to be “the man behind the man,” referring to the pointers he has given his son over the years. Joking aside, it was Pavel’s career as a wrestler that inspired Frank to follow his dad's footsteps.

“He wanted to be just like his father,” said Merba Chamizo, Pavel’s wife.

While Pavel never made it to the Olympic heights of his son, the two traveled similar paths.

As young boys, both grew up in Cuba. Both were recognized for their athletic ability by the EIDE, the Cuban program that finds naturally talented young adults and gets them into sports-oriented secondary schools. Both wrestled in the same weight class. Both trained under some of the same coaches. And both are champion wrestlers.  

After Pavel, who held the No. 1 ranking in Cuba for many years, retired from the sport, he moved to the U.S. in 1994, first to Miami and then Brooklyn, as the 27-year-old sought political asylum to avoid government persecution. In 2006, he and Merba moved to Georgia. That’s when Pavel began working as a driver merchandiser for Coca-Cola. He held that position for more than eight years before becoming a bulk driver two years ago. 

“Pavel is an incredible asset to our Coca-Cola family,” said Tony Bybel, distribution manager. “His dedication to his job is second to none, and he embodies the spirit we look for in all our employees.”

Pavel credits his job with Coca-Cola as playing a role in his son’s success because he was able to support Frank financially while he wrestled in Cuba at the beginning of what’s become a successful career.

At 18, Frank won a bronze medal at the 2010 World Championships and a gold medal at the Wrestling World Cup for Cuba, but after being sanctioned by Cuba for failing to make weight, decided to leave his birth country. He moved to Italy, his wife’s native country, where he continued his pursuit of gold.  

Frank won a silver medal at the 2015 European Games and later that year won gold at the 2015 World Wrestling Championships, Italy’s first men’s freestyle gold medal. In April 2015, he was ranked No. 1 in his weight class in the world.

In Rio, he attempted to make history again by winning Italy’s first Olympic gold in freestyle wrestling. He came up short, but not before bringing home the bronze.

“He’s an amazing young man. He’s got a heart of gold, but also the heart of a lion,” said Pavel. “He’s all about making it in everything he does.”

Prior to winning gold in the world championship, Frank didn’t know if he would earn a spot to compete in the Olympic Games. And with such short notice, the family was unable to make arrangements to be in Rio. But he and his family already are dreaming and planning for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

As for Pavel, he believes he has already lived beyond his dreams by working at Coca-Cola. As an immigrant, he values the opportunity to work for Coca-Cola and everything it affords.

But for now, the family is still celebrating Frank’s Rio success.

Said his father: “I’m very proud!”