War and sport: The Ukrainian athletes forced to fight or flee


A year of bombardment by Russian artillery has had a severely destructive impact on Ukrainian sports and their competitors. 

Many saw their training facilities blown up. Some athletes went to the front to fight alongside their compatriots, and some were forced to flee the country to continue their careers. 

Others used their success to support the Ukrainian cause, including heavyweight boxing champion Oleksandr Usyk: “I know the guys on the front lines were watching the fight. They sent me videos and I sent videos to them. I know that many boys cheered. This is our joint victory, so I think I cheered everyone up.”

It’s not easy to train or compete far away from your loved ones, but wherever they go, they feel loved. 

Anna Ryzhykova, a 400m hurdle runner, went to Oregon in the United States to continue her training.

“In February and March, I was staying at home in my city, Dnipro, and I was scared about the war,” explained Anna. “I couldn’t imagine that I will continue my career. I didn’t think anything about sports. I thought, how I can survive and my family and my friends?”

Fellow 400m hurdle runner, Viktoriya Tkachuk, was also given the same opportunity.

“It’s really nice that every country, not some, but every country tries to support us, tries to write some message of support, for training, for training camp, for us, what we can do for your family?,” she said.”We are so far from Ukraine, but everyone tried to support us and we are not alone here.”

Ukrainian athletes represent a country at war, attacked by another nation accustomed to capitalising on the success of its athletes. They are aware they’re competing for more than medals.

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