To prepare for their new endeavour of representing Ukraine at the Olympics, a group of Ukrainian athletes has relocated back to Cardiff Metropolitan University.
Because of the conflict in their home country, the Ukrainian men’s 4x100m relay team had to relocate to Cardiff, where they were provided with a training facility and housing, food, and sports science assistance as they prepared for the European Championships in August.
Now, they’re back in Wales with the rest of Ukraine’s sprinting talent in the hopes of qualifying for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
Andrii Vasyliev, a member of the winning relay team, says, “Qualifying for the Olympics is the ultimate goal of any athlete.”
Even though we all felt bad about not making it to the final, representing Ukraine at the European Championships was an honour, and now we have set our sights on making it to the Olympics in 2024.
“It’s more challenging to train in Ukraine right now because our homes and apartments lack basic amenities like electricity, running water, and central heating. Thank goodness we were able to use this space for training.
Obviously it’s tough, and we’re grateful for the support from other nations, especially Wales. I have faith in our team now that we have established our objectives and developed an action plan.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the athletes’ accomplishment at the European Championships in Munich was simply making it to the starting line.
Until the 2016 Olympic Games in Paris, Vasyliev and his teammates have been living on the road, first in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria and then back in Wales for more training camps.
Performance coach at Cardiff Met Gareth Walton, who was friends with Ukraine sprint coach Sergiy Basenko, was instrumental in setting up the initial partnership. “It’s amazing to see them grow and develop not only as sportsmen but as individuals, and to see what they’re doing for their nation is phenomenal,” he says.
It’s a great example of the resources that Wales and Cardiff Met can provide for athletes in terms of training space, professional growth for coaches, and security.
Having these guys compete in the Olympic Games in Paris would be the cherry on top for me. That’s quite a feat, if it can be done.
Along with helping the Ukrainian sprinters, Cardiff Met has pledged £400,000 in fellowships and scholarships over the next two years.
Senior lecturer in sport biomechanics Ian Bezodis says, “We’ve really gotten a lot out of it and I know the athletes and coaches have as well.”
We can also assist the Ukrainian coaching staff with their educational and training programmes, which we’ve already begun talking to them about.
Watching them compete in Munich and set a personal best for the year was exciting. We are excited to watch them improve during the upcoming indoor season.
On Friday, the Ukrainian sprinters will return home via two flights and a bus ride after competing in Warsaw, Poland.
Christmas in Ukraine during the ongoing conflict will be unlike any other for these competitors. But they have a place they can call home until they return to Wales.
Compared to Cardiff, “the way of life in Ukraine is completely different,” says Vasyliev.
Even though I live in a region that has been occupied for 90% of its territory, my family is safe even though they are near the front lines.
To be reunited with my loved ones is something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. I’m so excited to see them and give them a big hug.