Yaroslava Mahuchikh, gold in the name of the Ukrainian people

Yaroslava Mahuchikh, gold in the name of the Ukrainian people

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Belgrade (AFP) – Arriving in Serbia in extreme conditions, the Ukrainian Yaroslava Mahuchikh carried high the colors of her country, invaded by Russia, by winning the world indoor high jump title on Saturday in Belgrade.

As soon as her coronation was assured, the young athlete (20 years old) wrapped herself under a Ukrainian flag and her thoughts were immediately directed towards her compatriots, immersed in the war for more than three weeks.

“Before I went to the track, my mind was entirely on Ukraine because of the terrible events that are taking place there. This medal is first and foremost for my nation, my people and their army and I am very happy to to have been able to represent them,” said Mahuchikh, who is one of six Ukrainian athletes competing in Serbia while Russia and Belarus have been banned by the International Federation from all competitions until further notice.

The symbol is very strong since this success comes on the soil of a country which historically has deep ties with Russia. But no hostile demonstrations occurred among the spectators gathered in the Stark Arena, who even gave Mahuchikh a standing ovation, in accordance with the wishes expressed Thursday by the president of World Athletics Sebastian Coe and his Serbian counterpart Veselin Jevrosimovic.

Ukrainian Yaroslava Mahuchikh, indoor world champion in the high jump, on March 19, 2022 at the Worlds in Belgrade OLIVER BUNIC AFP

It is much more than a world title that the Ukrainian won, never honored at this level until then and who won with a jump of 2.02 m ahead of the Australian Eleanor Patterson (2.00 m) and Kazakh Nadezhda Dubovitskaya (1.98 m).

The Olympic bronze medalist (2021), 2nd at the Doha Outdoor Worlds in 2019 (20 years old), has indeed come a long way and it is a real ordeal that she endured to reach Belgrade.

“They are killing our nation”

Mahuchikh, who will now move to Germany with his mother and older sister, described after his victory his long journey to Serbia and “the nightmare” experienced since the attack of the Russian army against Ukraine.

“On February 24, I woke up to the sound of two explosions, she explained. I immediately called my parents and my trainer. I understood that the Russians had started the war against the Ukrainian people The situation was very difficult and I had to leave my city of Dnipro. At that time, I didn’t think about training at all and I didn’t think I could come to the Worlds. But we received a call from the Ukrainian federation asking us to go to Belgrade to protect our country on the track. We then started a three-day journey by car under the bombs and accompanied by the sirens.

Yaroslava Mahuchikh on the podium of the World Indoor Athletics Championships with her gold medal for height, March 19, 2022 in Belgrade
Yaroslava Mahuchikh on the podium of the World Indoor Athletics Championships with her gold medal for height, March 19, 2022 in Belgrade ANDREJ ISAKOVIC AFP

“They are killing our people, our nation and our children, the future of Ukraine. I think a lot of people in Russia need to understand that this war in Ukraine is real. I know a lot of Russians are saying it’s not true , but many of our cities have been destroyed, how can they say that?” she added.

What arouse the admiration of its rivals. His runner-up Eleanor Patterson, who painted her nails in the yellow and blue colors of Ukraine, paid him a strong tribute.

“I am heartbroken thinking about what the Ukrainians and their athletes have endured, launched the Australian. Winning the silver medal behind Yaroslava makes this podium even more special. I am proud of her , she had to face so many difficulties. I have a lot of respect for the Ukrainian athletes who were able to come here. After the competition, I told Yaroslava that my heart is with her.”

The joy of Yaroslava Mahuchikh after his coronation in the long jump of the World Indoor Athletics Championships, March 19, 2022 in Belgrade
The joy of Yaroslava Mahuchikh after his coronation in the long jump of the World Indoor Athletics Championships, March 19, 2022 in Belgrade ANDREJ ISAKOVIC AFP

Sebastian Coe, the president of the International Federation, handed a handwritten letter to Mahuchikh during the medal ceremony, which AFP was able to consult, expressing his “thanks” to the athlete and the Ukrainian team for having made “the supreme effort” to come to Belgrade.

“Your performance is a testament to your passion for our sport and your determination at such a terrible time for your country,” the World Athletics boss also wrote.

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