Sport can transcend politics, cross borders, unite peoples, and even, on occasions, heal wounds. The Ukrainian national gymnastics team is a case in point.
The Hellenic Olympic Committee assumed all the expenses so that the Ukrainian gymnasts could attend the Gymnastics World Cup in Greece. And even if they were prepared to compete in Athens, the young women are still worried about the conflict.
Diana Baieva, a Ukrainian gymnast, says: “When in 2022 Russia launched the great invasion of Ukrainian lands, my father had no choice but to go fight. He wanted to protect our family and our Ukraine. We are very worried about him. But we believe that everything will be fine and in the end we will win”.
The Ukrainian national team travels constantly for tournaments, but for security reasons, when possible they do not return to kyiv. The athletes confess that in the last year they have received the support and affection of almost everyone.
“There were many girls who supported us and tried to be by our side. Most of the European countries helped us and are helping us financially to go to the Games. Of course, the gymnasts from Russia and Belarus did not speak to us and did not say nothing to support us. In fact, they accused us because we participated in competitions and they didn’t,” says gymnast Yeva Meleshchuk.
These young athletes are brimming with passion for their discipline. Her trainer claims that despite the interruptions caused by air raid sirens, her girls have never been intimidated by the conflict. A fairly common situation in kyiv for more than a year.
Mariia Vysochanska, a gymnast for the Ukrainian national team, says: “Kiev is now grey, gloomy and sad. This is because there are frequent air-raid sirens and missile hits in houses and apartment buildings. Recently a rocket fell 500 meters from our gym. We value every minute we train and we are very happy that the armed forces protect us and do everything possible to win.”
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