Ukrainian athletics stars speak on the importance of sport

Diverse, sustainable, innovative, authentic, united, passionate, and considerate – these are our core values. They are close to our hearts and guide us, as we are looking to bridge the past and the future and leave an inspiring legacy to all participants, the City of Munich and future sport events.

With that said, we talked to the two Ukrainian elite athletes Maryan Zakalnytskyy and Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk on what sport and the European Championships Munich 2022 mean to them in this time of turmoil.

Maryan Zakalnytskyy, defending race walk champion

Maryan Zakalnytskyy, defending race walk champion

1. What does sport mean to you, and what can sport do for society?

Sport is my lifestyle. I’ve devoted more than half of my life to it and cannot imagine my existence without it. Due to sport, I can show that I have a strong character. It helps me reach my objectives as well.

Earlier, many people had explored Ukraine for themselves due to sports and the achievements of our athletes. But after February 24, the situation changed. Under these circumstances, every success and performance of Ukrainian athletes is a true statement. We show the unbroken spirit of our nation and inspire so many people worldwide, especially in our homeland.

2. In which race walking competition will you compete in Munich since the distances have changed? And how does that change your training compared to training for 50km?

50 km was cancelled, so now we have to decide which distance to choose – 20 or 35 km. As a reigning 50km Race Walk European Champion, I have a wild card for 35 km. And to be honest, it would be a too rapid shift from 50 to 20 km. The speed range is enormous. I walked 1km for 4:30. For 35 km, I have to do it for 4:15, and for 20 km – even faster than four minutes. After the Tokyo 2020, I changed my coach and, as a result, the training plans. Now I do many specific exercises which I didn’t have earlier. We pay more attention to the technical side as well as the physical. We must prepare my body to be competitive at the international top level.

So, now I’m preparing for the European Championships in Munich and 35 km. I wouldn’t say I like discussing the plans, but I have maximal goals. I aim to defend my title. The Ukrainian flag will be raised higher than the others in this case.

3. What keeps you going during these hard times?

When I won Gold in 2018, I was so motivated. My mother had her birthday that day. And I also walked with thoughts about my grandfather. He supported me during my sports career, but he was dying and didn’t see my victory. During the race, I remembered him and the words he told me so often. When I returned home, I went with a medal to the cemetery to thank him for everything. A big part of that medal also belongs to him.

Now there is a war in my country. I know that our army is powerful, and they can win. My brother, who was a role model for me in sports when we were younger, is also among our defenders. I know that at this moment I can be more helpful in sports. And I’d lay down my life to win this title and glorify Ukraine. My motivation is also my family and close people. They always support me so much.

I still have excellent relations with my first coach Mykola Bohonasiuk. He works with children and youth, and many years ago, when he felt my level was higher, he found another coach for me. He knew I would not leave him, so he decided to do it for me, and I appreciate it. Today I can discuss sports with him, our families, girls, and other subjects. I trust him.

Today I work with Denys Tobias. He and his wife, 1500 m Olympic Bronze medallist in Beijing 2008 Nataliia Tobias, help me so much in these dark times. They take care of me like of a son. Nataliia even cooks for me so I would be healthy. I feel like a part of their family.

All these people are motivating me for the highest result. I don’t want to be only a European Championships participant. I want to do my best. Because without them, I even couldn’t be in Turkey now and couldn’t prepare for Munich 2022. But some people wish me to lose. To be honest, they help me and motivate me even more.

4. Share a piece of advice with our community, in which others might fall hard at times as well.

Under any circumstances, don’t stop to move. Even drops of water can pierce rocks. After the dark period, you will see the light. If your goal is essential, no difficulties can stop you from reaching it. Find motivation in people and small things and read motivating books. I want to reach high results and become a role model for somebody. I want to motivate other people. And who knows, perhaps in the future, I will even write my book.

5. Which of the other sports taking place at the European Championships Munich 2022 is your favourite?

I have always admired triathletes. They are ironmen and ironwomen, for sure. And after Rio 2016, I also started to admire our athletes who compete in kayak and canoeing. So, I would highlight these two sports.

Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk, 2019 world silver medallist

Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk, 2019 world silver medallist

1. What does sport mean to you, and what can sport do for society?

For me, sport is a lifestyle! I have been active, restless, and fast since my childhood. My energy was enough for the whole family. Therefore, the sport has become the meaning of my life, the opportunity to do things that I love and bring me maximum satisfaction.

2. Please tell us about your goals for the 2022 athletics season, especially in Munich.

 This season will undoubtedly be unique because it combines the World Championships and the European Championships in one summer. Therefore, my goals for this crazy season are maximum, as usual.I want to perform at the European Championships in two ways and achieve the desired goals because now, like never before, we need to bring more optimism to our country and people. I dream of medals that will help Ukrainians keep their spirit up and motivate them to fight and confidently go to victory!

3. What keeps you going during these hard times?

It is complicated to say what is the best support for me now because the war is always unsettled. It is so tough mentally and influences my physical condition. I would say that my most considerable support is my family. They always do their best to help me keep in shape and move forward!

4. Share a piece of advice with our community, in which others might fall hard at times as well.

Even in the darkest times, try to appreciate every day of your life and enjoy everything you do to the fullest!

5. Which of the other sports taking place at the European Championships Munich 2022 is your favourite?

Athletics is my queen. But there is also a room in my heart for swimming because my husband is a swimmer. At the European Championships in Munich, I would also visit the beach volleyball competition.

6. What made you want to start training triple jump as well? And will you go double in Munich?

My coach and I repeatedly wanted to try the triple jump, but we always had to postpone this idea for some reason. After the Olympic Games in Tokyo, we had time for this experiment during the indoor season. And it turned out to be quite successful! We knew we could show a high result, but the question is, how long can I jump. So, we plan to combine the two events in Munich.

I also look forward to the European Championships because I like Germany very much. The crowd is always excellent, and we have fantastic support. You have a crazy atmosphere in the best sense of this word, and I love it.

Tags

Munich 2022European ChampionshipsAthletics