Anation marred by deadly political protests received a desperately needed victory when the Ukrainian women’s biathlon team won an Olympic gold medal in the 4×6-km relay. The Semerenko twins, Vita and Valj, Juliya Dzhyma and anchor Olena Pidhrushna missed five targets, but avoided penalty loops to finish in 1 hour, 10 minutes, 2.5 seconds. It was Ukraine’s second medal in the Winter Games and second medal in women’s biathlon. And it was Ukraine’s first gold medal at a Winter Olympics in 20 years. Earlier, Vita Semerenko had won a bronze medal in the women’s 7.5-km sprint.
A triumphant protest during the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games’ opening ceremonies, amazing gold-medal winning performances the first day of competition and a best-ever second overall finish saw Ukraine’s star shine brightly on Sochi, Russia soil. Ukraine scored five medals on the first day of competition, finishing with a total of 25 (five gold, nine silver). Biathlon and cross-country skiing were Ukraine’s elite disciplines. Vitaliy Lukyanenko won two gold medals (four overall), Juliia Batenkova and Oksana Shyshkova each captured four total medals with the former winning two silvers.
CHEERS OF THE YEAR: Bohdan Bondarenko continues to raise the bar in high jumping, consistently winning gold medals in most international competitions. The same superlatives hold true for saber-fencer Olha Kharlan, a world champion, second to none.
JEERS OF THE YEAR: Thanks to the Russian-supported conflict and economic crisis in eastern Ukraine, Shakhtar Donetsk was forced to move its matches to Lviv, Donbas Donetsk had its entire KHL season canceled, Ukraine had to cede its EuroBasket 2015 hosting honors, and the city of Lviv withdrew its candidacy to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Our sixth annual UKRAINIAN WEEKLY SPORTS AWARDS: Most Outstanding Male Athlete – Vitaliy Lukyanenko, Paralympics biathlon; Most Outstanding Female Athlete – Vita Semerenko, biathlon; Most Outstanding Team – Woman’s National Biathlon Team; and Rookie of the Year – Elina Svitolina, tennis.
Following are other outstanding achievements in various sporting disciplines from the past year, followed by notable goings-on in our diaspora’s world of sports.