Slavin was born in Minsk, Belarusian SSR, USSR, and had taken up wrestling as a youth to defend himself against anti-Semitic attacks.Slavin soon became noted as a talented wrestler, and won the Soviet Greco-Roman wrestling middleweight junior championship in 1971. Slavin had moved to Israel just four months before the Olympic games. and he joined Hapoel Tel Aviv and the Israeli Olympic Team. The 1972 Olympics was due to be his first international competition for Israel, and Slavin had been considered Israel's most likely medal winner at the Munich games. He was the youngest Israeli Olympian competing at the games.