Paralympic Winter Games: Ukrainian athletes’ thoughts are with those fighting the invasion at home as they achieve golden success in Beijing

Iryna Bui led the first Ukrainian podium sweep of the day in women’s middle distance as Oleksandra Kononova won the silver medal, while Liudmyla Liashenko rounded out the lineup with bronze.

Kononova said she was proud to share the podium with her compatriots but admitted her mind was elsewhere with her country at war.

“This medal is really special and unique for me because now we have a very difficult emotional pressure,” she said.

“Despite physically being here and competing, all of my thoughts, heart and soul are with my family and my child.

“Emotionally it’s very difficult to focus and concentrate on racing and competing, so these are the toughest Paralympic Games for me.”

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“We are fighting here”

Another Ukrainian podium was to follow a few hours later in the visually impaired men’s middle distance.

Vitaliy Lukyanenko won comfortably to claim the eighth Paralympic gold medal of his career, with Anatoliy Kovalevskyi and Dmytro Suiarko crossing the finish line to claim silver and bronze respectively.

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Lukyanenko, 43, becomes the most successful male biathlete of all time, but like Kononova, his thoughts were with those fighting the invasion back home.

“I’m really proud that today we can hoist the Ukrainian flag in Beijing, so that every person can see the flag again. I’m proud that I succeeded,” Lukyanenko said.

“We are fighting here, not just in Ukraine but here on the sports scene.

“We want to draw the attention of European society to the war and the situation in Ukraine and ask for your help in stopping this war.”

Yaroslav Reshetynskyi and Oleksandr Kazik followed Lukyanenko, Kovalevskyi and Suiarko as the Ukrainian athletes secured the top five spots in the race.

It was Ukraine’s third podium finish in the parabiathlon at the Beijing Paralympic Games after Lukyanenko, Kazik and Suiarko secured the top three spots in the men’s sprint for the visually impaired on Saturday.

Ukraine has won six gold medals at the Games so far, two behind China.


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