Ukrainian athlete Yaroslava Mahuchikh won an emotional gold medal in the women’s high jump at the World Indoor Championships in Athletics weeks after fleeing the Russian invasion of her homeland.
The 20-year-old, who is the reigning European indoor high jump champion and won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics, said on February 24 she woke up to the sound of explosions in his hometown of Dnipro, according to the World Athletics Competition.
She fled to the countryside, then took a grueling three-day road trip to Serbia. The championship took place in the Serbian capital, Belgrade.
After her victory on Saturday, Mahuchikh said she was fighting for her country.
“I didn’t think I was doing it for me or my medal, I was doing it for the whole Ukrainian nation,” she said.
“I want to show that Ukrainians are strong people. They never give up. Our soldiers protect our country at home and today, I protect my country on the track.
A jump of 2.02 meters earned him the gold medal. Australia’s Eleanor Patterson took silver and Kazakhstan’s Nadezhda Dubovitskaya took bronze.
Patterson, whose fingernails were painted blue and yellow as a tribute to Ukraine, said she was incredibly proud of her rival.
“The difficulties that Ukrainian athletes have gone through, no one deserves to go through them,” she said, according to Yahoo! Sports.