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Paralympic athletes from Ukraine have taken Beijing by storm and climbed near the top of the leaderboard while competing with heavy hearts as their home country is overrun by Russia.
Heading into Tuesday’s events, Ukraine had a total of eight medals – tied with the United States and Germany. However, the team was behind Canada, which had 12, and China, which led with 25, including seven gold medals. Ukraine is tied with Canada with four gold medals each.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had a resounding effect on the sports world, and the Paralympic Games were no different. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in the Games.
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Ukrainian Paralympic Committee President Valeriy Sushkevych told reporters last week that it took the team more than four days to get to Beijing.
“It’s a miracle that we are here. … Part of our team was already abroad. Part of our team was in Ukraine. All the necessary equipment was in Ukraine. … We had to unite all these parts “, he said, via Reuters.
“I have been President of the National Paralympic Committee of Ukraine for 25 years. And never has it been so difficult, so heavy to come to the Paralympic Games.”
Sushkevych added that it might not be so easy to get home, especially if the fighting continues and escalates.
“Going home is not easy. I hope the international community will take a real step during the Paralympic Games to stop this war,” he said.
While chaos reigns at home, Paralympic athletes from Ukraine have had some success on the playing field. Read below for an overview of the athletes who have racked up medals so far.
Oleksandr Kazik won his first medal of the 2022 Paralympic Games in the 6 kilometer biathlon race for the visually impaired. He finished in second place between his Ukrainian teammates Vitaliy Lukyanenko and Dmytro Suiarko. Kazik had won two medals at the 2018 Games – one in the 12.5 kilometer visually impaired and one in the 15 kilometer visually impaired.
Liudmyla Liashenko won a silver medal in the women’s 6 kilometer standing biathlon event. She finished just behind China’s Yuije Guo and ahead of Yuije’s teammate Zhiqing Zhao. This is Liashenko’s second career medal. She won bronze in the same event at Pyeongchang in 2018.
Vitaliy Lukyanenko won a gold medal for Ukraine. He won the visually impaired men’s 6 kilometer biathlon, finishing just ahead of Kazik and Suiarko in the event.
Lukayanenko is a decorated Ukrainian para-athlete. He arrived at the Paralympic Games with six gold medals to his credit dating back to the 2006 Games in Turin.
Taras Rad won a silver medal in the men’s 6 kilometer seated biathlon. The 22-year-old won his second Paralympic medal with his first coming to the 2018 Paralympics. Rad finished behind China’s Liu Zixu and teammate Liu Mengtao.
Oksana Shyshkova picked up two gold medals on the first of the opening days of the Games. Shyshkova won the visually impaired women’s 6 kilometer biathlon and the visually impaired women’s 15 kilometer cross-country classic.
She beat Germany’s Linn Kazmaier and Leonie Maria Walter in both categories.
Dmytro Suiarko added to Ukraine’s medal tally with a bronze medal in the men’s 6 kilometer biathlon for the visually impaired. He finished behind his teammates Lukyanenko and Kazik.
Grygorii Vovchynskyi won a gold medal in the men’s 6 kilometer standing biathlon. Vovchynskyi beat German Marco Maier and Canadian Mark Arendz. It was the first Paralympic gold medal of his career after winning silver and bronze at the Paralympic Games in Vancouver in 2010.
US Paralympian shows support for Ukraine
Oksana Masters, born in Ukraine and later adopted by an American, competes in the Paralympic Games for Team USA.
After winning a gold medal on Sunday in the 6 kilometer seated biathlon, she wrote on Instagram that she felt “so proud” seeing the Ukrainian flag at the Games.
“It has been difficult to find my passion and desire to participate in these Games in the midst of the war my home country of Ukraine is going through. I feel selfish, helpless and guilty to be here,” said- she writes. “However, I have always been so proud to be Ukrainian, I felt so proud at the sight of the Ukrainian flag, and now more than ever, I am most proud to say that I am Ukrainian. My mother has always said that my Ukrainian heart made me resilient; it made me a fighter.
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“As the Paralympic Winter Games begin, I am reminded of how sport has always had the power to unite the world. I will be racing for more than my own goals, more than a place on the podium. pole I will be running for families and children with disabilities in Ukraine. As Ukrainians fight for their homes and peace, I want every start line and every finish line to mean something much bigger than “a race or a result. I want to help make sure no child is left behind. I know what it was like to be a child with a disability in Ukraine where resources for medical help were slim to non-existent – more now in the middle of a war.