'I gave them opportunity to smile' – Ukraine's Mahuchikh proud of high jump gold amid Russia conflict

By Sports Desk March 28, 2022

Ukrainian high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchikh expressed her pride at claiming gold at the World Athletics Indoor Championships, hoping it showed the strength of her country amid conflict with Russia.

The 20-year-old had to undertake a three-day car journey from Dnipro to Serbia to reach the competition after her country was invaded by neighbouring Russia in late February. 

Mahuchikh, who managed bronze at last year's Olympics in Tokyo, produced a first-time clearance of 2.02m with her final attempt.

She revealed the psychological difficulties she had in leaving her homeland for Serbia after her winning efforts, and Mahuchikh has now suggested her performance embodied the strength of Ukraine.

"I received a lot of messages," she told BBC Sport. "It was like 'thank you that we are smiling'.

"They've had a lot of bad news; they're in a war. But when they see me winning, that I won the gold medal for my country, for Ukraine, it showed that Ukrainians are strong people.

"I gave them the opportunity to smile a little bit. It has been difficult [to focus] but I must do this and show to the world that Ukraine is a strong nation.

"We have strong people and we never give up and we will protect our independence and our freedom on all fronts."

Mahuchikh also detailed the ongoing struggles in her home country with her family split across Dnipro and Poland.

"It was a little bit frightening but after this I called my coach and we left Dnipro, and went to a village nearby, the home of my coach," she added.

"My family stayed in Dnipro in their flat but every day we saw each other. But it was so complicated to me when we decided to go to the World Championship. I didn't know when I would come back and see my relatives and my family.

"The Ukrainian Federation manager said it would be good to go abroad now, so we went to Moldova, Romania and then Belgrade.

"It was the longest trip that I have ever been on, three days by car. It was so difficult but we arrived in Belgrade on March 9 and the Serbian Federation said they would let us do some track and field training to recover."

Russian athletes are currently banned from competition as global sporting bodies continue to impose sanctions to deter further attacks, and Mahuchikh supports the decision.

"I think World Athletics made the right decision because Russian athletes must understand that Russia started the war," she continued.

"We shouldn't have to compete when our people and children are being killed by the Russian military, it's terrible. They must understand that Russia started the war, they were the aggressors."

Related items

  • Elaine Thompson-Herah set for season debut at USATF Bermuda Grand Prix Elaine Thompson-Herah set for season debut at USATF Bermuda Grand Prix

    Excitement is mounting in Bermuda as double-double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah is set to make her season debut at the upcoming USATF Bermuda Grand Prix on Sunday, April 28. Thompson-Herah, who trains under Coach Reynaldo Walcott at Elite Performance in Kingston, Jamaica, arrives as the reigning fastest woman alive after clocking a stunning 10.54 seconds in the 100m in Oregon in August 2021.

    Thompson-Herah made history at both the 2016 Rio Olympics and the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics in 2021 by claiming gold in the 100m and 200m events, becoming the only woman ever to achieve this remarkable feat. Her dominance extended to the relay events, where she secured gold in the 4x100m relay in Tokyo, joining the elite company of Usain Bolt and Florence Griffith-Joyner in completing a triple clean sweep of sprint medals at the Olympics.

    Anticipation is palpable among Bermuda's Jamaican community, with Yackeisha Weir, president of the Jamaican Association of Bermuda (JAB), expecting a strong showing of support for Thompson-Herah at the Flora Duffy Stadium. Weir emphasized the significance of Thompson-Herah's presence, particularly with the upcoming Paris Olympics on the horizon.

    "The anticipation is high this year, especially as we have the fastest woman alive competing," said Weir in an interview with BerNews. "With the Olympic Games taking place this summer, Bermuda has a chance to see a preview of Paris. It’s an honour to have Elaine on the island."

    The USATF Bermuda Grand Prix, slated to be broadcast live on NBC from 5 pm to 7 pm, promises to be a thrilling showcase of world-class athletics, with Elaine Thompson-Herah headlining a star-studded lineup.

     

  • Christania Williams and Coach Unfried target return to personal best ahead of Jamaica National Championships Christania Williams and Coach Unfried target return to personal best ahead of Jamaica National Championships

    Christania Williams, the talented Jamaican sprinter and 2018 Commonwealth Games silver medalist, is setting her sights on reclaiming her peak form as she gears up for the Jamaica National Championships in June, with her eyes firmly set on securing a spot at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris this summer.

    Since her impressive performance as part of Jamaica's silver-medal-winning 4x100m relay team at the Rio 2016 Olympics, Williams, now 29, has faced setbacks due to injuries and other undisclosed health concerns. However, under the guidance of her coach, Philipp Unfried, she is focused and determined to return to her personal best time of 10.96 seconds.

    Unfried outlined their strategy for the upcoming season, emphasizing Williams' goal of nearing or even surpassing her personal best. "The plan for 2024 is to get close to where she was, close to her PB or maybe around PB," stated Unfried. "She is going to do some more races now in preparation for trials and training went really well so far."

    At the Velocity Fest 15 on Saturday meeting held at the Ashenheim Stadium in Jamaica, Williams demonstrated her potential by clocking a time of 11.76 seconds into a headwind in her qualifying heat, securing second place behind Remona Burchell, who won the heat in 11.52 seconds. Despite challenging conditions with winds affecting her heat, Williams progressed to the B final.

    In the B final, Williams improved her performance, achieving a season's best time of 11.56 seconds. Although she finished second in the final, Williams' progress is indicative of her determination and gradual return to top form.

    "Mentally, I am ready," expressed Williams. "The aim right now is to get back to my personal best. There is no pressure. Right now the focus is on me, just taking it one step at a time."

    Williams acknowledged the mental fortitude required to overcome setbacks and stay focused on her goals. "It's about going into the race and doing exactly what I do in training," she affirmed. "I know I have a lot of potential, I still believe there is more in there and I still haven’t reached my full potential."

    Despite the obstacles she has faced, Williams remains resolute in her determination to move forward. "With all that has happened in the past, I am just trying to put that behind and move forward," she explained. "I do have days when that really gets to me mentally but it’s life. If something happens, you don’t use that to keep yourself down."

    As Williams continues her journey towards peak performance, supported by the unwavering guidance of Coach Unfried, the upcoming Jamaica National Championships will serve as a crucial stepping stone towards her ultimate goal of representing Jamaica at the Olympic Games in Paris.

  • Asafa Powell's absence cost Jamaica a faster 4x100m world record in 2012, suggests Gatlin Asafa Powell's absence cost Jamaica a faster 4x100m world record in 2012, suggests Gatlin

    In a recent episode of the Ready, Set, Go podcast, American sprint legend Justin Gatlin delved into the hypotheticals of Jamaica's historic 4x100m relay run at the London 2012 Olympics, suggesting that the world record of 36.84 seconds could have been even faster had former world record holder Asafa Powell been part of the lineup.

    Powell, renowned for his blistering speed having held the 100m world record at 9.77 and 9.74s, missed out on the opportunity to join the likes of Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, Yohan Blake, and Usain Bolt in that record-breaking relay team due to a groin injury sustained during the final of the 100m.

    Gatlin, reflecting on the potential of the Jamaican squad, speculated that adding Powell to the mix could have propelled them to an astonishing 36.5-second mark.

    "Adding Asafa Powell to that already formidable lineup of Bolt, Blake, Carter, and Frater could have pushed the team to an even faster time," Gatlin remarked on his podcast. Powell's absence, while the team still delivered Olympic gold, left room for speculation on just how much quicker they could have been.

    Gatlin, a seasoned sprinter himself, understands the unique pressure and responsibility that comes with relay events. "There is a difference between being an individual runner at the Olympics or world championships and being part of a relay team," he explained. "If you falter as an individual, it's on you; but in a relay, it's on the country's back."

    Reflecting on the challenges of breaking a world record in relay events, Gatlin emphasized the need for everything to align perfectly. "36.8 is a gigantic order. 37 low is a tall order," he admitted. "Everyone needs to be in peak condition and ready to run."

    Looking ahead to the future, Gatlin also weighed in on Team USA's chances of breaking the 12-year-long Jamaican 4x100m relay world record in 2024. "It's going to take a near-perfect performance from a team firing on all cylinders to surpass what Jamaica achieved in 2012," Gatlin predicted.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.