Ukrainian sport, the other victim of the ravages of war

A string of deaths on the Ukrainian front over the past week brings the death toll to 287 athletes since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022, while some 400 stadiums and other sports facilities were damaged or destroyed by the war.

Mykola Yaremchuk, 22, a silver medalist of the Ukrainian karate championship, was killed in a fight near Bakhmut, the Ministry of Sports said on Saturday. He had volunteered in the army after his older brother enlisted.

Early last week, the relevant federations reported the deaths of Oleksandr Dykyi, 42, a multiple Ukrainian rowing medalist and participant in international competitions, and Ruslan Piskovyi, 21, a finalist in world kickboxing championships.

Their names join the long list of top athletes and coaches who died in the Russian invasion. On Tuesday, Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports Andriy Chesnokov raised the death toll to 287 in a public intervention over the exclusion of athletes from Russia and Belarus from the Olympics.

“Many Ukrainian athletes have volunteered,” Illia Shevliak, president of the Ukrainian sports committee, explained to Efe.

The initiative of the Committee ‘Angels of Sport’ (‘Yangoly Sportu’ in Ukrainian) has collected the stories of more than 200 dead athletes to preserve their memory and collect evidence of Russian actions in Ukraine.

His memorial, dedicated to the slain athletes, is now on display in Kiev, featuring the shoes some of them wore for pictures of the victims.

Some athletes, as well as their families, were killed in Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities. The youngest is Kateryna Diachenko, an 11-year-old rhythmic gymnast.

He died last spring in Mariupol, together with his father. His house was hit by a Russian bomb. His brother and mother were also killed when another bomb hit the hospital where they were being treated.

“I was destined to take the stage and bring a smile to the world. What are the children guilty of?”, wrote their coach in the project “Sport Angels”.

The mother of high jumper Kateryna Tabashyk was killed in a rocket attack in Kharkiv last August.

“Every day seems like August 18,” Tabashnyk told Ukrainian television, explaining that he was unable to train for a month and a half after the tragedy. In March, he dedicated his newly won bronze medal at the European Athletics Indoor Championships to his mother.

Shevliak hopes to present the exhibition and the stories of athletes killed abroad: “The world needs to know what the Russian invasion has cost Ukrainian society,” he says.

He also remembers the very difficult situation Ukrainian athletes are going through. According to the ‘Sports Map’ drawn up by the commission, more than 400 stadiums, training fields and other important sports objects have been damaged or completely destroyed.

Most of them were in Donbas, in the east, and in cities like Chernigiv, Mykolaiv and Kharkov, heavily bombed by Russia.

Even in such circumstances, with many athletes only able to train abroad or fighting on the front lines, Ukraine has achieved good results on the international stage, Shevliak said.

The recommendation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete internationally, with the approval of international sports federations, was an additional blow to Ukrainian athletes.

“The IOC says it cares about the rights of Russian and Belarusian athletes. But what about the rights of Ukrainians? How can they share the same space with representatives of the regime that continues to commit atrocities and kill Ukrainians?” Shevliak stressed to Efe.

Replacing the Russian or Belarusian flag with a “neutral” one would not change the fact that they would continue to represent these countries, says the Ukrainian sports director.

“Most Russian athletes belong to the structures of the military, which are directly responsible for the murders and destruction in Ukraine,” continues Shevliak, for whom sport has always been a tool of influence for countries like Russia, eager to whitewash your reputation. .

Source: El heraldo