Ukraine’s athletics icon Yaroslava Mahuchikh is one of many who have been deeply affected by the ongoing war against Russia. The Olympic bronze medallist high jumper made a 2000 km journey out of her country to take part in the World Indoor Championships and clinched a gold medal, and Mahuchikh believes her feat is bringing smiles to the war-torn people of her homeland.
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24th February and the ongoing war between the two neighboring countries, Ukrainians have been fleeing their homeland and have been settling as refugees in other European countries, except for able-bodied men between the ages of 18 to 60 who are required for military duties on the frontier.
In the meantime, the 2022 World Athletics Indoor Championships commenced from 18th to 20th March in Belgrade. Yaroslava Mahuchikh, the 20-year-old high jumper who clinched a bronze at the Tokyo Olympics last year, made a petrifying three day journey out of her hometown of Dnipro to Serbia, traveling a total of 2,000 kms, before securing a gold at the event with a 2.02m clearance.
It was the longest trip, it was so difficult: Yaroslava Mahuchikh details her three day trip out of Dnipro to reach Serbia
Speaking to BBC Sport following her grandeur feat, Mahuchikh stated that she believes her achievent is a reason to smile for the Ukrainians, and undertaking the lengthy journey to win the world title is a symbol of her country and its people’s strength.
“I received a lot of messages,” said Mahuchikh, “It was like ‘thank you that we are smiling’. They’ve had a lot of bad news; they’re in a war. But when they see me winning, that I won the gold medal for my country for Ukraine, it showed that Ukrainians are strong people.”
“I gave them opportunity to smile a little bit. It has been difficult [to focus] but I must do this and show to the world in competition that Ukraine is a strong nation. We have strong people and we never give up and we will protect our independence and our freedom on all fronts.”
Reaching Belgrade from Dnipro wasn’t easy, as Mahuchikh described she had first moved to her coach’s home in a nearby village, followed by crossing two more countries- Moldova and Romania, before she was able to reach the Serbian capital.
“It was a little bit frightening but after this I called my coach and we left Dnipro, and went to a village nearby, the home of my coach. The Ukrainian Federation manager said it would be good to go abroad now, so we went to Moldova, Romania and then Belgrade,” she went on, “It was the longest trip that I have ever been on, three days by car; it was so difficult but we arrived in Belgrade on March 9 and the Serbian Federation said they would let us do some track and field training to recover.”
Yaroslava Mahuchikh thumbs up the decision to ban Russian athletes
The Russia vs Ukraine war has made its impact in world sports, with several federations and governing bodies imposing sanctions on Russian as well as Belarusian athletes from competing in the tournaments. Many events have also been shifted away from Russia.
“I think World Athletics made the right decision because Russian athletes must understand that Russia started the war and a lot of Russians supported it,” Mahuchikh stated, “We shouldn’t have to compete when our people and children are being killed by the Russian military, it’s terrible. They must understand that Russia started the war, they were the aggressors.
“It’s really terrible to see [athletes at rallies]. Some sportsmen asked what the problem was. I think a lot of them don’t understand what happened and this is why what they do at this moment,” the high jumper added. [H/T BBC.com]