Yaroslava Mahuchikh wins historic gold medal for Ukraine | Sports | German football and major international sports news | DW
“This medal is for Ukraine, all my country, all my people, all the army. I have to protect our country on the track in an international arena.”
Yaroslava Mahuchikh’s words after the 20-year-old won gold in the high jump at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade were as emotional as the Ukrainian’s victory.
“They killed our people and they killed our nation and they killed our children, the future of Ukraine,” Mahuchikh said of Russian military actions in his home country.
“I don’t know what they want because we enjoy our life in 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 said it’s all fake, The videos are all fake, but many of our cities have been destroyed, how was that fake?
From Dnipro to gold
Mahuchikh fled her home in Dnipro just three weeks ago, hid in a cellar and needed three days and “hundreds of phone calls” to finally reach Belgrade.
After winning bronze in Tokyo last summer, Mahuchikh overcame three failed jumps before navigating 2.02m. A standing ovation followed his victory. Her teammate Iryna Gerashchenko, who fled Kyiv with her husband and dog amid “all at once: bombs and rockets” but without equipment, finished fifth.
“Before going into the field, the only thought in my mind was Ukraine because too many terrible things have happened there,” Mahuchikh said afterwards.
“I doubted I could even jump, but my trainer told me I had to go out and perform with the form and condition I had before the Russian invasion started.”
Yaroslava Mahuchikh wins gold in Belgrade
Mahuchikh’s victory came in the absence of Russia’s Mariya Lasitskene, a gold medalist in Tokyo who was ruled out following World Athletics’ ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes following the invasion of Ukraine.
Silver medalist Eleanor Patterson of Australia painted her nails a blue and yellow love heart in support of Ukraine. “Winning a silver medal behind Yaroslava is even more special,” Patterson said afterwards. “She’s had to go through such hardships that no one deserves, so I’m also incredibly proud of her.”
Unable to return to Ukraine, Mahuchikh is now heading to Germany to prepare for a busy season ahead.