Yaroslava Mahuchikh The women’s high jump is the world indoor champion.
She is currently a refugee in Ukraine, living and training in Germany during the athletics season.
For Olympic Day With the theme of 23 June 2022 #MoveForPeaceDnipro told Olympics.com in an exclusive interview that she was trying to bring peace to her country through sports.
“Be kind to everyone because the game comes together, the game helps and the players help each other,” says Mahuchikh.
“Everyone lives together in the Olympics. People from all over the world come together in the Olympic Village. The Olympics definitely brings people together. It has always been, is, and will continue to be, ”she added.
Ukrainian athletes fled for training
Mahuchik’s victory at the 2022 World Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, came three weeks after her homeland was attacked.
The attack disrupted the Olympic bronze medalist’s training. “It was very difficult, we first went to Khmelnitsky,” Mahuchich recalls the first days after February 24, when the world changed for her and her fellow Ukrainians.
“There was a training camp for our small national team that was going to the (indoor) world. In the middle of our trip we were told to go to the border.
“Our trip lasted three days. Eventually, we reached Serbia and started training without sirens, without any explosions.
Mahuchikhla knew she would not be home for some time: “The hardest moment is to say goodbye to my family, to my father,” she recalls.
“But then you know you want to compete, you want to perform internationally for your country, you want to show that Ukraine is still there.”
The journey was not easy for the high jumper, it took him a long time and he had a lot of thoughts in his head. She confessed to asking herself questions during a long drive away from danger.
“I was thinking a lot about why I’m leaving,” says Mahuchikh. “I have just started distributing humanitarian aid. (But) I understand, we had a lot of volunteers in Dnipro, because it was a relatively safe area (at the time). Our city came together and helped a lot.
“And I thought, ‘Why should I go out into the world and jump?’ That’s when I realized that this is my field of work. This is my area, I want to defend my country in my area and (at this stage) I feel that the people who work for them help their country in whatever they can in their area. “
A family separated
Since leaving Ukraine before the World Indoor Championships in March, Mahuchikh has not returned home. She has competed in the Diamond League circuit this season by staying in Erlangen, Germany with the help of her sponsors.
“They helped and gave us an apartment,” she says. “My mother, my sister and her daughter were there.”
The Ukrainian also paid tribute to various sports federations, international and national, who helped her country’s players find new training grounds during the war and welcomed them with open arms.
But, she says, “my home was in Ukraine, in Danipro, and still is – my city, my apartment.”
Danipro in Middle-Eastern Ukraine is now at the forefront of the conflict. “A lot of people stayed at home in Dnipro,” says Mahuchikh. “Some are in Poland
“Of course everyone wants to go home. I talked to my sister recently. I told her I wanted to go home, to return to normal life, to live without the sound of sirens.
“But she reads the stories of those who have returned from Poland. You want to do that, but it’s still not safe because there are still missiles in my city. “
Bringing “smiles and joy” to Ukraine
The Triumph in Belgrade brought a very welcome result – the attention of the world champion and many opportunities for her to talk about the situation at home. It also had the added bonus of boosting the morale of her compatriots.
“In the light of all the bad news, people will hear the good news and laugh. And I managed it, because people thanked me for bringing me smiles and joy, ”recalls Mahuchikh. “After the competition, I attended press conferences and before that I went through mixed zones. Of course, as a winner you get more media attention than a silver or bronze medalist. She was an additional inspiration.
“You know you can get results in competitions and then talk to journalists and they will publish it. After the event in Serbia, I received a lot of interview requests. I can help with my results at the sports level which gives me the opportunity to speak to the media.
“(I want people to know that) we are a very strong nation that has done a lot and suffered a lot in the history of Ukraine. But I know we are strong and we will survive. We just have to believe in ourselves. ”
The game comes together
Most importantly, sports can promote peace – whether by raising awareness of the situation in Ukraine and in other conflict zones or by bringing people together.
“Sport shows the good qualities of men and women in all aspects of life: their strong character, their willingness to keep going no matter what.
“In my view, the Olympic Games bring all countries together. The Olympic Games help the world. It is always broadcast in all countries and people who are not sports fans also watch the Olympics. This is something incredible. ”