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Ukrainians win medals at the Olympics in Beijing
At the 29th Olympic Games which were held in Beijing, China, in August 2008, Ukrainian athletes won 27 medals — 7 gold, 5 silver and 15 bronze. For each medalist winning an Olympic medal is a very special event in their life. Emotions ran high, and what each athlete had to say after winning a medal would fill many pages. WU offers brief, emotional statements from each Ukrainian Olympic medalist.
Since independence, Ukrainian athletes have taken part in four Olympic games. At three of the games Ukrainian athletes won a score of medals but at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 the number of medals won rose to twenty seven — in spite of predictions that the Ukrainian Olympic team would win fewer than twenty medals. These predictions proved to be false. The number of medals won by the Ukrainian athletes put the Ukrainian Olympic team at the eleventh place among 204 Olympic teams that competed at the Olympics.
The climatic conditions in Beijing — summer heat and high humidity — which were not quite conducive to top athletic performance, nevertheless did not prevent Ukrainian athletes from achieving good results.
254 Ukrainian athletes competed at the 29th Olympics — more than at the previous Olympics.
Greeting the Ukrainian athletes, Serhiy Bubka, formerly a distinguished pole-vaulter and now President of the National Olympic Committee and member of the International Olympic Committee, said in part: “You won your medals shortly before the celebrations of the day of Independence in Ukraine, and thus you have made a worthy contribution to the celebrations. You are heroes of sport who have given millions of sport fans joy and positive emotions. I would like to thank all the athletes, their coaches, doctors and all those who were on the Ukrainian Olympic team for their achievements, and also those who by their work contributed to the Olympic successes. I hope that the Olympic victories will be a boost to solving the urgent problems in the development of sports and physical culture that Ukraine faces today.
In his letter of greetings to Serhiy Bubka, Juan Antonio Samaranch, Honorary President of the International Olympic Committee, wrote that the Ukrainian Olympic team proved to be a worthy competitor at the 29th Olympic games, which “are an event of global importance. I am very glad that the Ukrainian athletes performed well in Beijing.” He expressed hope that this trend would continue in the future as well.
The Ukrainian government awarded considerable money prizes to the Ukrainian Olympic medalists: 700,000 hryvnyas for a gold medal; 500,000 for a silver medal, and 350,000 hryvnyas for a bronze medal (at the current exchange rate one US dollar is worth about 4.9 hryvnyas).
The Rodovid Bank, one of the sponsors of the Ukrainian Olympic team, awarded its own prizes: 50,000 hryvnyas for a gold medal; 35,000 for a silver medal, and 25,000 hryvnyas for a bronze medal.
The next Olympiad is to be held in London, and hopes for even a better Ukrainian athletic performance there run high.
At the gala event held on September 5 2008 at
Palats Ukrayina Concert Hall to honour
the Ukrainian Olympic Team.
The Olympic Centre at the Ukrainian Embassy in
Beijing welcomes Jacques Rogge, President of
the International Olympic Committee.
The Ukrainian Olympic Team at the closing
ceremony of the Games in Beijing.
Halyna Pundyk, Olha Kharlan, Olena Khomrova, Olha Zhovnir were the first on the Ukrainian Olympic team to win the gold medals (Fencing, Women’s Team Sabre). Previously, they had won the silver medals at the world and European championships. Says Olena Khomrova: “We could hardly believe we’d won the gold! We were overwhelmed by joy. After we overcame the US sabre team, we realized we could make it to the very top — and we did! And the cheering of Ukrainian fans did help a lot. When the score was 44:44 I sort of became positive we could win.” Says Olha Kharlan: “At first, the score against the Chinese was not in our favor, but for some reason a conviction in me began to grow that we could get it even and then win!”
Roman Hontyuk, the most experienced among the Judo wrestlers on the Ukrainian Olympic team, was the first to win a medal, the bronze, for the Ukrainian Olympic team at the Olympics in Beijing (Judo, Men -81 kg): “I’m very happy I managed to win this medal. I knew I was expected to win this medal, and it made me do my best — and I did get it! It was a good start for the Ukrainian Olympic team!”
Iryna Lishchynska won the silver gold in Women’s 1500 m and Natalya Tobias won the bronze medal in the same event. Says Iryna Lishchynska: “It was very important to control the pace of the run, and we managed to do that. At the right moment, I made a dash for it — and finished second. I’m very happy!”
Natalya Tobias: “I hoped that I would be able to win a medal but in the face of a very tough competition there did not seem to be much chance for this hope to come true. In the last hundred meters of the run, I was exhausted and began to slow down, but then I saw Iryna Lishchynska surge forward, and it gave me a great boost of energy — I got my second wind and ran on to win the bronze medal!”
Nataliya Davydova won the bronze medal in Weightlifting, Women, 69 kg; at the world championship of 2007 she also won the bronze medal: “I’m very happy I’ve managed to perform well enough to win the medal. The Russian athletes who were ahead of me proved to be stronger but I’m quite satisfied with my achievement too.”
Vasyl Fedoryshyn (Wrestling, Men’s Freestyle, 60 kg) won the silver medal at the Olympics after winning the European Championship 2008. Says Vasyl Fedoryshyn: “At every competition I take part in, my aim is always to win the first prize, that is why it came as a disappointment that I failed to win the gold at the Olympics in Beijing. I was well prepared to face any challenges but at the decisive moment I was a millisecond too slow and this delay took away my gold from me. But all the same I’m very grateful to my coach Ihor Barnya who is like a father to me.”
Taras Danko (Wrestling, Men’s Freestyle, 84 kg) was quite satisfied with winning the bronze medal: “I’m very glad I won the medal after so much time spent in training. Besides there had been injuries, operations, rehabilitation and getting back to training. There were no surprises at the Olympiad — I knew what to expect. I do hope to win a gold medal at the Olympics in London.”
Viktoriya Tereshchuk won the bronze medal in Modern Pentathlon. Says Viktoriya Tereshchuk: “I slept well before the competition and was well prepared both physically and psychologically to face any challenges. After my success in fencing — my best performance up that moment! — I knew I could win a medal. The running event was a very important step to victory, I did well in it, and my overall results qualified me for the bronze medal. I’m quite satisfied with my achievement. I was at the peak of my form.”
Anna Bessonova won the bronze medal in Rhythmic Gymnastics, Individual All-Around. Says Anna Bessonova: “There was definitely a problem with fair assessment of my performance by the judges — they were biased against me. I was very upset and was about to quit but my coach encouraged me to go on, and perform for the people watching the competition, for my parents and friends — “and never mind the judges!” I did my best and I hope my friends and supporters appreciated it. I won the bronze medal — it’s an achievement too. You can’t keep wining gold all the time, can you?”
Yury Cheban — the bronze medal in Canoe Single, Men, 500 m. Says Yury Cheban: “I wanted to win gold, you can be sure of that, but failed. It was very tiring and I plan to spend some time just relaxing.”
Nataliya Dobrynska won the gold medal in Women’s Heptathlon: “I earned 6,733 points which qualified me for gold. In Athens I got into the finals and in Beijing I decided I should be more ambitious and compete for the top prize. In every event I did my absolute best to show the best results and finally it gave me my gold medal.”
Viktor Ruban won the third gold medal for the Ukrainian Olympic team (Archery, Men’s Individual). Says Viktor Ruban: “I was ahead of the Korean archer by only one point but it proved to be enough to win the gold. It was not the first time I competed against this Korean athlete and I had won before. It gave me an assurance that I would win this too. Ukrainian archers have always performed well at the Olympics.”
Andriy Stadnik won the silver medal in Wrestling, Men’s Freestyle, 66 kg. It was the first time that he competed at the Olympic games. Says Andriy Stadnik: “I had wrestled with my opponent in the final once before and lost as a result of spurious decision taken by the referee. I am of the opinion that something of the sort happened again at the Olympiad but I did not protest and accepted the referee’s judgment. I admit I’m upset that I failed to win the gold, but I did try very hard. My goal at any competitions is the first place.”
Illya Kvasha, Oleksiy Pryhorov won the bronze medals in Diving, Men’s Synchronised 3 m Springboard event: Says Oleksiy Pryhorov: “It was the first time we took part in Olympic games, but we did hope we’d be able to win a medal. We did not express this hope aloud, even to each other. The competitiveness was extremely high and made the medal that I won all the more precious. It took me twelve years of training to do it. I’m very happy but it took several hours for the realization ‘I’ve won an Olympic medal’ to truly sink in. The night before the event I could not sleep — I was so nervous. My friend Illya said he could not sleep either.”
Denys Yurchenko (Men’s Pole Vault) won the bronze medal, but like Vyacheslav Hlazkov had to discontinue his participation in the competitions because of an injury. But before it happened his performance qualified him for the bronze medal.
Yury Sukhorukov won the silver medal in Shooting, Men’s 50 m Rifle 3 Positions: “I came to the Olympics with a firm intention to win a medal, and I did. One point more — and I would have won the gold. In shooting, the moment you relax your concentration one tiny bit, you lose. That’s what happened to me, but the silver medal is also a great achievement.”
Iryna Merleni won the bronze medal in Wrestling, Women’s Freestyle 48 kg (WU featured an article about this athlete in WU #1’08). Says Iryna Merleni: “At the Olympics in Athens I won the gold medal, but the bronze medal that I won in Beijing is sort of more precious for me because I got it in a much tougher struggle. In Athens I was pretty much sure I’d win the gold — previously, I had won three gold medals at world championships, but a knee injury prevented me from training the way I had to do it before the Olympics in Beijing. I even thought of quitting but thanks to the encouragement of my coach I did not quit and won a medal. In fact, it was a piece of bad luck that prevented me from winning a higher place.”
Vasyl Lomachenko (Boxing, Men’s Feather, 57kg) won the gold medal and the International Boxing Association called him “the most technically perfect boxer of the Olympic games in Beijing” and awarded him the Well Barker Prize which has been presented to the best boxers since 1936. Says Vasyl Lomachenko: “I wanted very much to have the Russian boxer to whom I lost at the world championship as my opponent — to get even, you know. And at the drawing of lots, luck was on my side. I knew inside myself that this time I’d win — and I did. The most difficult bout for me, psychologically, was the one with the Chinese boxer. When I got through to the final, I was pretty confident that I could win gold.”
Vyacheslav Hlazkov — the bronze medal in Boxing, Men’s Super Heavy (+91kg). Says his coach Dmytro Sosnovsky: “His injury caused him to retire from further participation in the competitions. It was too bad that it happened to him but he is a true fighter and thanks to his efforts and perseverance another bronze medal was won for the Ukrainian Olympic team.”
Artur Aivazyan gave the Ukrainian Olympic team its second gold medal (Shooting, Men’s 50 m Rifle Prone). Says the gold medallist: “During the completions I had taken part in before the Olympics I often felt I lacked experience and concentration, and I made all kinds of mistakes. But at the Olympics, my training which included psychological training, meditation sessions and yoga exercises did help and I achieved the best results I could. My psychological state was the decisive factor.”
Oleksandr Petriv (Shooting, Men’s 25 m Rapid Fire Pistol) dedicated his victory to his parents and to Ukraine. Says Oleksandr Petriv: “I think I was greatly inspired by Artur Aivazyan’s victory and this inspiration helped me win my own gold medal. I managed to control myself well and overcome my nervousness. I had competed against the athletes who had also gotten to the finals before, and it’s great that this time it was my turn to win!”
Inna Osypenko-Radomska (Kayak Single (K1), Women, 500m) was luckier than Yury Cheban and won the gold medal: “ I don’t make plans, I just want to win, that’s all. Yury Cheban’s performance inspired me and I felt I could win, no matter how strong my competitors might be. And they were very strong, but thanks God, I went one better by winning the gold medal.”
Armen Vardanyan won the bronze medal in Wrestling, Men’s Greco-Roman, 66 kg. “I was all geared to win the gold but on the way to the final I made a mistake which prevented me from going further on to win the gold medal. But I did win the bronze and I’m glad I did! I dedicate this medal to Ukraine!”
Olena Antonova won the bronze medal in Women’s Discus Throw. Says Olena Antonova: “Frankly speaking, I was surprised that things turned out the way they did in the disc throwing event. My wining the medal came as a great unexpected joy for me. Incidentally, I think many others were surprised too to see the athletes competing for the top medals in the final.”
Oleksandr Vorobyov, bronze medal in Gymnastics Artistic, Men’s Rings: “While I was performing I knew everything was going well, but there was a little flaw in jumping down and it cost me a silver medal. I had spent a lot of time in training and in perfecting all the elements. The competition was very tough, and the Chinese athletes did very well. But they performed on their home turf, and the bronze medal in such a situation is also a very considerable achievement.”
Olha Korobka was the first to win a silver medal for the Ukrainian Olympic team in Beijing (Weightlifting Women’s +75 kg). Says Olha Korobka: “I had had several injuries during my training and I was not quite sure I was in my top form before the Olympics. I was very nervous at the beginning and it affected my results. But gradually, I got a better control of myself and things began to improve. I did what my coach was advising me to do — and presto! The silver medal!”
Lesya Kalitovska won the bronze medal in Cycling — Track, Women’s Individual Pursuit event: “It was a very tough competition, and I had to be doing my outmost up to the very last moment. The final result hung in the balance but thanks to my coaches I did win the medal. My coaches made me work so hard, I had to overcome myself, to forget about exhaustion. My mother told me later, after the event, that she could not even watch the television broadcast that showed the events in which I competed. But now everyone is happy.”
Photos have been provided by National Olympic Committee of Ukraine.