The majority of Ukraine’s junior national swimming team, 23 age-groupers in all, have been welcomed into Hungary as a means to avoid the current war raging with Russia within their nation.
In a collaborative effort with the Hungarian Swimming Asosicaiotn, as well as the Hungarian government, the swimmers are training in Debrecen and Kaposvar, able to continue their routines under their usual coaches.
The two groups include top talents like Oleksandr Zheltyakov, silver medallist in the 100m back at the 2021 European Junior Championships, as well as Viktoriya Kostromina who was a member of the bronze medal-winning mixed medley relay at the same meet in Rome.
Hungarian Swimming Federation president Sandor Wladar said, “We’ve done a lot of good things for Hungarian swimming in recent years, staged a lot of international events for FINA and LEN, received loads of positive feedback – but this is something different as we probably just saved lives, saved young swimmers from getting their careers ruined and their dreams shattered, and this is something words cannot really describe.”
The rescue operation of sorts stems from a relationship between Wladar and Soviet swimmer Sergey Fesenko who both claimed gold medals at the U.S.-boycotted 1980 Olympic Games.
Wladar says, “Sergey stayed in my apartment in 1992 when he visited Hungary and we’ve been following each other’s lives ever since.
“Now, when the war broke out, he wrote me if we were able to help as he is working for the Ukrainian Federation. I immediately contacted the Government’s officials, as well as tried to find partners for the mission and finally we could agree with our vice-president Andras Becsky, head of the Debrecen Sport School and Tamas Der, head of the Kaposvar Sport School and the deputy mayor of that city to host these young swimmers. Of course, we are aware that many more would love to come but we could accept only those who are enlisted by Sergey.”
“The Ukrainian Swimming Federation, with the help of the parents and the coaches, managed to evacuate swimming kids from the cities which are shelled every day” Fesenko said in a message. “We are grateful for our Hungarian friends for the invaluable support they rendered to the Ukrainian people and Ukrainian swimming in this difficult time for our country. We express our gratitude to the Prime Minister of Hungary, to the Hungarian Swimming Association and personally to President Sandor Wladar for helping our athletes and providing them excellent conditions for their trainings.”
As of now, all the expenses of the Ukrainian swimmers and the accompanying persons are covered by the Hungarian Federation, though the Ukrainian Federation is to request financial support from LEN to reimburse those federations which now host Ukrainian aquatic athletes in many European countries.
Earlier we reported how the nation of Italy has also extended its hand to help Ukrainian aquatic athletes in need. 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.