In the previous article, we talked about the invasion of the Russian army and its consequences to sports in Ukraine, basketball in particular. The full text of the article about basketball during the war in Ukraine can be found here.
The war in Ukraine began four days after the end of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Nevertheless, in this edition of the Games, there were two significant moments for Ukraine – the critical call of skeleton athlete Vladislav Heraskevych for “NO WAR IN UKRAINE,” which was seen by the whole world.
And, of course, the silver medal of freestyle athlete Oleksandr Abramenko. Abramenko ended up being the only medalist for Ukraine at the last two Winter Olympic Games. Meanwhile, we asked Heraskevych about his second Olympiad and his thoughts, plans and actions after returning to Ukraine.
Vladislav, tell us briefly about your second Olympiad?
– It went terribly. Starting from the period before the Olympic Games, namely January 19-20, I was very ill. During this time, I had already said goodbye to the Olympics since my health was unbearable. At some moments, the temperature of my body reached 41 degrees. I don’t even remember much because I was not conscious. However, I was able to recover in time to get to Beijing. But unfortunately, no miracle happened, and the disease affected my physical form. I was very far from my optimum shape.
What was the atmosphere like at the Olympics?
– The Olympic Games itself was strange. There was no atmosphere of a sports festival at all. Everyone was very nervous and tense because of COVID. Our Ukrainian team suffered the most as most of the athletes got sick. I also spent a day and a half in isolation and missed one training session on the track.
Tell us about the competition itself?
– First of all, we saw that we were far behind in terms of equipment. Big teams pulled trumps out of their sleeves and demonstrated an incredibly high level of skeletons and skates. Nevertheless, we were determined to compete. During the season, we actually defeated everyone who finished in the top 5 at the Olympics. Therefore, we will work on our mistakes and look for ways to develop.
What was the meeting with Russian athletes like? Did you feel the tension?
– It was the same meeting as always. Russian athletes are used as puppets for manipulation and propaganda in their own country. It is quite possible that they sincerely believe that they have nothing to do with the war and the politics of their state. So I didn’t feel any tension.
What has changed for you after the Russian invasion of Ukraine?
– Everything has changed. Since the beginning of the war, all achievements, all victories, titles have no meaning and seem to be something unnecessary. You only think about how to save the lives of your loved ones, how to keep your life, and how to help save Ukraine from Russian terrorists. There was less sleep, much more nerves, and worries. At the same time, I am always looking for opportunities to be as helpful as possible.
Did you manage to communicate with Russian athletes after the invasion? What do they write/say?
– There were some interesting comments that were maybe absurd. Some go on about how “sport is out of politics and what do athletes have to do with it.” But most of them are silent.
What future do you see for yourself and Ukrainian sports, particularly – skeleton?
– I see a bright future. Most of the “superfluous” people being dragged to the bottom will be weeded out from all areas of our country’s development, including in sports. As a result, Ukraine will be the fastest-growing state. Many sports facilities will be constructed, sports will become more popular, and we will win and reach new sports heights.
The national sport of the last two Olympics
Without a doubt, we can call Oleksandr Abramenko today an absolute legend of the Ukrainian Olympic movement and the most titled Winter Olympian in the entire history of independent Ukraine.
So, of course, we asked the runner-up of the Beijing Olympics how the Olympics went for him and what he thinks about the rapidly changing sports environment in Ukraine and the world right now:
Oleksandr, you are the only Ukrainian with any medal for the second Olympiad in a row. What do you think about this?
– I am thrilled that I managed to please all Ukrainians with my performance for a second time. But I believe that Ukraine will be able to win more medals at the Winter Olympic Games in the future.
Triumph in Beijing, return to Ukraine, and, almost immediately, war. Probably the most extreme emotions. What do you think?
– Emotions are so opposite that there is no trace of the joy of winning a medal. All thoughts are only about when Ukraine will overcome this terrible war.
How do you think the world sports environment will change soon?
– I think that the world sports community will block the performance of Russian athletes in international competitions and prohibit hosting any competitions in Russia.
What are you doing now?
– Now I am trying to create NFTs and sell them so that all the money raised can be transferred to help our Armed Forces and people who have suffered.
What are your thoughts and plans regarding your career and life in general?
– When the country is at war, it isn’t easy to make any plans. However, after the victory, I want to develop freestyle as a sport in Kyiv.
Ban Russian athletes. What do you think about this? Is this correct or not?
– As an athlete, this isn’t nice, but I think this decision is correct in general. Athletes of a strange aggressor should not compete at competitions as if nothing was happening. The Olympic Movement is primarily aimed at peace.
Absolutely everyone can help Ukraine
Heraskevych and Abramenko are very active people outside of sports. Both do their best to ensure their sports develop in Ukraine. Furthermore, Abramenko has created his own NFT. By purchasing, you will help the Armed Forces of Ukraine and people who have suffered from Russian aggression and receive a unique art autographed by the Olympic champion in Pyeongchang Winter Olympics 2018.
Edited by Aldo Tong