Italy, already playing host to some of Ukraine’s Olympians in artistic swimming (synchronized swimming), will now also host a selection of Ukraine’s elite swimmers as well.
From March 12-31, a group of 12 swimmers and 4 coaches will be hosted by the Italian Swimming Federation (FIN) in Lignano Sabbiadoro for a training camp.
Athletes in Ukraine have been unable to train since February 23, the day before the Russian invasion of the country began. Images circulated on social media claim that the Ukrainian Olympic Pool in Kharkive was damaged by a missile. SwimSwam could not independently verify those claims.
“After the synchro team, swimming also has chosen our country to resume sporting activity away from war,” FIN president Paolo Barelli said. “When we received the request for help from the swimming federation, we immediately took action to identify the most appropriate solutions to their needs. The athletes should cross the Hungarian border today and there they will find our transport ready to continue the trip up to Lignano.
“Our hope is that these gestures of solidarity will be an example for anyone who has the opportunity to intervene to help the Ukrainian people dramatically affected by the war.”
Among the swimmers in attendance include Tokyo 2020 Olympians Vladyslav Bukhov, Denys Kesil, Serhiy Shevstov, and Daryna Zevina. All four of those swimmers have international medals, most notably the 27-year old Zevina who was the 2012 World Champion in the 200 SCM backstroke and is a six-time European Champion, a Youth Olympic Champion, and a World Junior Champion as well.
While Ukraine is requiring most male citizens between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving, it appears as though these athletes have been granted some exemption. Kesil represented Ukraine at the 2019 World Military Games, where he won a silver medal in the 200 fly.
SwimSwam has spoken with Shevstov, who was living with his wife in the capital of Kyiv, several times since the Russian invasion began. His most recent message on Tuesday says that he is fine, but that he and his wife were staying in their car at night.
“We have some problems,” Shevstov said wryly.
FINA reaffirmed its decision to not exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes wholesale from upcoming World Championship events, but did say they would evaluate exclusions on a case-by-case basis. Russian and Belarusian athletes will have to compete under neutral symbols in FINA events for now.
Hungary has also come forward to give shelter to 23 national age-group swimmers from Ukraine after 5 days of travel. They will be housed in Debrecen and Kaposvar.
FINA remains one of the few sporting organizations that still plans to host an international sporting event in Russia this year – the 2022 World Short Course Championships in December. With some organizations, like British Swimming, pulling out of other meets because of the presence of Russian and Belarusian athletes, its unlikely that a World Championship event in Russia will be well-attended.
Saturday has seen Russian forces come closer to the Ukrainian capital with explosions heard around the city. A number of other cities are under increasing pressure from the Russian military, which has taken over several nuclear power plants in Ukraine.
A few glimmers of hope have come late this week, as Russia has resumed talking to international leaders, including those from France and Germany. Russian state-run media reported on Saturday that the country was ready to resume security conversations with the United States.
UKRAINIAN ATHLETES IN CAMP IN LIGNANO
- Vladyslav Bukhov
- Denys Kesil
- Vadym Naumenko
- Oleksii Hrabarov
- Artem Bondar
- Valentyn Nesterkin
- Illia Linnyk
- Oleksandra Zevina
- Daryna Zevina
- Maksym Ovchinnikov
- Serhii Shevtsov
- Maksym Tkachuk
- Andrii Khloptsov
- Iurii Zevin
- Oleksandra Kurbanova
- Kostiantyn Kartashov