Sports

Ukraine Sports Stars Joining Fight Against Russia


From world boxing champions to football stars, top Ukrainian sports people are resisting the Russian invasion of their country, with some even returning home to take up arms.

– Boxing brothers –

Even before Russia invaded, former world heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, the current mayor of Kyiv, told AFP he was “ready to take up arms”.

“I go to a shooting range. I can fire almost any weapon,” said the giant of a man, who played a leading role in the 2014 Maidan protests.

The 50-year-old’s brother Wladimir, also a former world heavyweight champion, has also volunteered to fight.

– ‘I don’t want to kill’ –

Reigning world heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk’s thoughts at the beginning of the year were of defending his title in a rematch with Britain’s Anthony Joshua — instead he is now back in Ukraine to defend his family.

Usyk, who returned to the country as soon as the invasion began, said he was “defending my home, my wife, my children, my close ones” in an interview with CNN from the basement of his home in the Kyiv area.

“I don’t want to shoot, I don’t want to kill,” he said, while adding that if he came under attack he would have “no choice” but to respond in kind.

Former world lightweight champion and two-time Olympic gold medallist Vasiliy Lomachenko has also returned home to help defend the town of Belgorod-Dnestrovsky near the city of Odessa.

The 34-year-old posted a picture of himself in a military uniform with a rifle slung across his shoulder on his Facebook page.

– War on center court –

Retired Ukrainian tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky, 36, hopes he doesn’t have to open fire while serving with Kyiv’s volunteer defenders.

“I know how to use the gun. If I’ll have to, I’ll have to. I pretty much hope that I won’t have to use the gun,” the former world number 31, who famously beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2013, told the BBC.

Top seed women’s player Elina Svitolina made her feelings known by threatening to boycott a game against Russia’s Anastasia Potapova in Monterrey this week.

In the end, she played and won the game, wearing a yellow top and blue skirt, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

Several top Russian players have also come out against the war, including new men’s world number one Daniil Medvedev, world number six Andrey Rublev and Russia’s top female player Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

– Premier League resistance –

Ukrainian footballers led by English Premier League stars Oleksandr Zinchenko and Andriy Yarmolenko have also sought to rally opposition to the war.

“We ask (the) world football all to oppose Russian propaganda, to show and tell the truth about war in Ukraine,” said the Manchester City community and West Ham winger in a video with 11 other top players.

The Ukrainian Football Association said an appeal by players had raised half a million euros ($556,649) for the army.

Russia has been barred from international football by FIFA and UEFA over the invasion, including the 2022 World Cup.

– Biathlete killed in battle –

A young Ukrainian biathlete has already been killed while serving in the military, the International Biathlon Union said.

Yevhen Malyshev, 19, was a member of the national youth team from 2018 to 2020.

promoted

Dmytro Pidruchnyi, a world pursuit champion in 2019, is also preparing for combat.

In photos posted on social media, he says he has joined the national guard in the western Ukrainian city of Ternopil.

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