A year of bombardment by Russian artillery has had a seriously 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 countrymen, and some were forced to flee the country to pursue their careers.
Others used their success to support the Ukrainian cause, including heavyweight boxing champion Oleksandr Usyk: “I know the guys on the front line were watching the fight. They sent me videos and I sent them videos. I know a lot of boys were cheering. This is our joint victory, so I think I cheered everyone up.”
It is not easy to train or compete far away from their loved ones, but wherever they go they feel loved.
Anna Ryzhykova, a 400m hurdler, went to Oregon in the US to continue her training.
“In February and March, I lived at home in my city, Dnipro, and I was afraid of the war,” Anna explained. “I couldn’t imagine continuing my career. I didn’t think anything about sports. I thought, how can I survive and my family and my friends?”
Fellow 400m hurdler Viktoriya Tkachuk also got the same opportunity.
“It’s really nice that every country, not some, but every country is trying to support us, trying to write a message of support, for training, for training camps, for us, what can we 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 profiting from the successes of its athletes. They are aware that they are competing for more than medals.