Ukraine’s second Winter Olympic Games gold medal will not be celebrated as the country’s Sochi team sticks together amid deadly clashes in anti-government demonstrations in Kiev.
Vita and Valj Semerenko, Olga Pidhrushna and Juliya Dzhyma won the women’s relay on Friday to give Ukraine their first Winter Olympic title since figure skater Oksana Baiul won the women’s individual title in 1994.
“We will not celebrate because it’s not time for celebration, we will be peaceful it’s a very sad moment for our nation and our team belong to the nation, we’re all together,” Segey Bubka, head of Ukraine’s National Olympic Committee, told reporters with tears in his eyes.
“It’s historical because we have a very difficult moment in our country and of course it was not easy for us to focus and continue the competition,” the former pole vault champion said.
Bubka met with the relay team to help them stay focused on sport after the demonstrations in their homeland left more than 70 people dead.
“I gave them psychological advice,” he explained.
“We (the Ukrainian delegation) had meetings and we had a special meeting two days ago. We discussed how we will manage the pressure and the difficulties.”
It was important to stay at the Games to show support to Ukraine, Bubka said.
“We decided all together we will continue because we would like to raise the flag and hear the Ukrainian national anthem,” he added.
“It’s the best way to support our people, to support our nation.”
Asked if the fact that Friday’s victory happened in Russia meant anything, Bubka, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said: “It’s the Olympic Games it’s not politics.”
Politics did come into play on Thursday, however, when Alpine skier Bogdana Matsotska and her coach and father said they had withdrawn from Russia’s first Winter Games in protest at Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich, who enjoys Moscow’s backing, and his government.
“It’s only one athlete, no one left,” said Bubka.
“We have 55 people here, all our delegation is here, only the athletes who have finished their competitions who planned because of the flight to leave, they left.
“No one else, no one else. They decided not to participate in the slalom. I had a meeting with them and we discussed, we understand their position but they stay with the team,” he added.
“And we leave after the closing ceremony together.”