Other Sports: Olympics-‘We’re not best friends’: Ukrainian and Russian athletes keep distance


BEIJING (Reuters) – With Russian troops massed at Ukraine’s borders, athletes from the 2 nations have fashioned a fragile peace on the Beijing Olympics, helped alongside by coronavirus restrictions meant to keep rivals aside.

Ukraine has suggested its athletes to keep away from Russians the place doable and instructed them the way to behave in case they’re provoked. COVID-19 restrictions in Beijing’s Olympic bubble have restricted however not eradicated interactions between them.

“We’re not the best of mates,” Ukrainian bobsledder Lidiia Hunko mentioned of her Russian rivals. “We spend time with our personal group. We’re not involved with the Russians.”

An athlete’s job on the Olympics, she mentioned, was to win medals and proudly symbolize their nation, not rating political factors.

While she had not heard of any incidents between rivals from the 2 nations, she mentioned the escalating political tensions had affected Ukrainian Olympians.

“This scenario (round Ukraine) impacts us as a result of all of us have household, all of us have mates there,” Hunko mentioned. “Of course we deal with individuals as separate people, but it surely nonetheless leaves a mark.”


Ukrainian athletes stay tight-lipped concerning the scenario at residence. The nation’s Olympic Committee has requested reporters not to question Ukrainian rivals about politics, saying it “makes athletes lose the bottom below their toes emotionally.”

When requested to explain the ambiance in his residence metropolis of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine, ice dancer Maksym Nikitin shortly modified the subject to the meals served within the Olympic Village.

Figure skater Ivan Shmuratko dodged questions concerning the temper in Ukraine, saying he was on the Olympics to do his best.

Russian Olympians, who’re competing with out their flag and nationwide anthem due to doping sanctions, have emphasised that the tough statements by the 2 nations’ politicians have not seeped into interactions in Beijing.

Camaraderie was seen at a latest short-track velocity skating coaching session the place a Russian, Semyon Elistratov, bronze medallist within the males’s 1,500m on the 2018 Games, acquired a push from Ukraine’s Oleh Handei to apply for the relay.

“We have pleasant relations,” Elistratov informed RIA information company. “Oleh at all times tells me, ‘Don’t take note of that, it is simply politics.'”

Russian officers have mentioned they’re in opposition to the “politicisation” of the Games, opposing the diplomatic boycott by some Western nations.

“If Ukrainian athletes win on the 2022 Games, we shall be sincerely completely happy for them and congratulate them on medals,” Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin informed TASS information company.

(Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv; Editing by Leela de Kretser and Jacqueline Wong)

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