AT Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, many Ukrainian professional athletes have temporarily decided to put their careers on hold to defend their country. Boxers, tennis players, biathletes or even footballers, they did not hesitate to put on bulletproof vests and helmets rather than gloves or crampons.
In Ukraine, all men aged 18 and over must remain in the territory and are likely to be called up to fight. Some are already mobilized like Viktor Kornienko, Shakhtar Donestk footballer and Ukrainian international. The 23-year-old defender clarified his intentions on his Instagram account: “I am in Ukraine, helping the armed forces. Glory to Ukraine. So we can destroy those f****** Russians. “Two other mobilized footballers have also lost their lives, according to Fifpro, the international players’ union. They are Vitalii Sapylo (21) and Dmytro Martynenko (25).
“We will not surrender”
Other athletes, based abroad, chose to return home when they learned of the sequence of events. Sergiy Stakhovsky is one of them. The 36-year-old tennis player, who retired a month ago, expressed his determination in this fight. “I wish no father had to make that choice, anytime, anywhere in the world. It’s something you don’t want to do. There is no right choice. I have three children, whom I must raise, whom I must take care of. And I want to take advantage of them. That’s what I wanted when I ended my career. But instead, I’m in Kiev with a gun. I’m trying to prove that Russia is doing wrong. » The old 31e world in the ATP ranking has also received the support of Novak Djokovic, who offered to help him financially.
The boxing world also gathers in Kyiv, like the city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko. The former world heavyweight champion is on the front line and regularly posts messages to his constituents. “I will defend Kiev, arms in hand. I train all the time, I do training as a former officer and head of territorial defense. I haven’t lost my skills, I’m improving all the time. I know how to shoot almost any gun. […] Any aggressor must know it: it will not be a ride, it will cost him dearly, we will not surrender, ”he said. Among the other boxers mobilized, we find his brother, Wladimir, but also Vasyl Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk, also crowned in the rings. Usyk was to fight in a highly anticipated Anthony Joshua rematch in the spring of 2022. The clash has obviously been postponed.
Originally from Crimea, Usyk had been singled out until then for his vague positions concerning the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014. He is now an important player on the ground, but also on social networks, account given her immense popularity on Instagram, with over 1.7 million followers. The 35-year-old boxer also directly challenged Vladimir Putin there. “I address the people of Russia. If we consider ourselves brothers, Orthodox, do not let your children and your army go to our country, do not fight with us. I am also addressing President Vladimir Putin. You can stop this war. Please sit down and negotiate with us without ultimatums and demands. Our children, our wives, our grandmothers are hiding in the cellars… We are here in our own country, we cannot help but defend ourselves. »
The tragic fate of Yevhen Malyshev
Other figures challenge, such as that of Yuriy Vernydub, the coach of Sheriff Tiraspol, in Moldova. The 56-year-old coach has joined the volunteers. “I made my decision, so everything is fine. I am not afraid. Thinking about football motivates me. Football is my life. I hope this war will not last long. We will win and I will return to my beloved job,” the man who brought down Real Madrid last September told the BBC.
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Ukrainian biathlon is also in the news since one of its representatives, Yevhen Malyshev, died in combat. At only 19 years old, his death moved the world of biathlon. His teammate Dmytro Pidruchnyi is still struggling against the Russian army. He recounted his daily life far from the slopes at Parisian. “I always thought that at some point it would be necessary to take up arms to protect my country from invaders. […] I hope that this war will not last long thanks to the sanctions imposed on Russia and that the Ukrainian army will soon defeat the enemy. As a reminder, sports competitions in Ukraine are suspended, without specifying the duration of the interruption. Difficult to say when life before will be able to resume its rights on the banks of the Dnieper.