Ukraine Swimmer Mykhailo Romanchuk: Russian Olympic Inclusion Is “A Shame For All Sport”

On day 5 of competition at the European SC Championships in Otopeni, after the heat of the 800 freestyle, Ukrainian star swimmer Mykhailo Romanchuk shared his thoughts about Russian and Belarusian athletes being allowed to compete at the Olympics in Paris 2024.

On Friday, the IOC announced that it would allow individual Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the Paris 2024 Olympics under conditions of neutrality, though without signing a declaration regarding Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine. So far, only 11 athletes have been approved as neutrals – 8 from Russia and 3 from Belarus.

According to the United Nations, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, at least 10,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed and at least 18,500 have been injured. That comes in addition to estimates of around 100,000 soldiers from the two sides being killed.

Romanchuk won bronze earlier in the meet in the 1500 free and is the #2 seed after Saturday’ morning’s 800 free. He won a pair of Olympic medals at the Tokyo Games in 2021 – silver in the 1500 and bronze in the 800.

“It’s a big, big shame for the world of sport. I mean, Russians attacked the Ukrainian city, the Ukrainian civilians, the Ukrainian athletes, the Ukrainian sports facilities, and now they are allowed to compete. It’s not normal. More than 400 athletes died during this war, It’s not right.

Russian Federation doesn’t respect the rules about the Olympic peace. They did it three times. In 2008 in Georgia,  in Ukraine 2014 and in 2022 also in Ukraine.  It means that you are also allowed to compete if you’re not respecting the rules.

On Russian swimmers that might be allowed to compete in Doha 2024 at the World Championships:

The answer is the same. It’s a shame for all the sport. I should do the work, what I’m doing. So my best job is to swim and to represent Ukraine and to talk. With you (journalist and media), I came to a lot of interviews, so it’s my job. I want to say another time a big thanks to the guys who are defending our country. They’re defending not just Ukraine. They’re defending the whole of Europe. I used to swim because there were no other things that I could do.

On the decrease of media attention to the war in Ukraine:

Yeah. I mean, the world is completely tired of the war and also a lot of Ukrainians, but the war is not finished. And I couldn’t see the finish of this war, unfortunately. So we need the much bigger support. I know that the world is tired, the Europe is tired, but we need the support of all the countries.

The day before the competition started, a Ukrainian swimmer who was born in 2005 died in war. I don’t know him personally but I mean, he was 18. He has all his life in front of him, and maybe one day, he could have been the Olympic gold medalist. But now, he is not even alive. The Russians killed him. And now we say aloud to them to compete.

On the conditions imposed by the IOC and the declaration of neutrality to be signed by athletes who want to compete in Paris:

It’s not enough. Like 90% of the athletes are in the army. I think it’s the same in different countries in Europe. So all the athletes are like a small part of the army. How can they be neutral if they are in the army? You should tell it and not sign the paper. So I also can sign the paper. So, what does this paper mean?

I hope I’ll be in Paris, but the decision is it’s up to the government, about the country, about the Olympic Committee. But I hope so because the athletes should do their job, what they can to jump, swim, run, and box to represent Ukraine.

On the decision of World Athletics to not allow Russians and Belarusians to compete:

I know Sebastian Coe. I know him by himself. So he’s such a great person. And I respect his decision. Because he said that the Russians would not be allowed to compete until the war was finished. I like his decision. And my opinion is that all the world should do the same.

I’m back to Ukraine. So I was in Germany but now I’m back in Ukraine because I decided that I want to help Ukraine and the Ukrainian team to recover. Because Ukraine needs the young people in Ukraine to recover, to build up, to renew everything. So that’s why I’m coming back. I’m on the west side of Ukraine, and all the pools are completely destroyed. Like sometimes we can swim in the 50 meters pool but during the air alarm it’s not permitted and we have to go out of the water.

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4 months ago

Biased opinion.

Reply to  phelpsfan
4 months ago

Aren’t opinions by definition biased?

4 months ago

He is very understandably very biased. He isn’t even really wrong, but the matter is much more complicated than he presents. His opinion is as wise as it is surprising.

4 months ago

Hard decision, because like some are saying, most athletes aren’t supporting and helping Russia in their war, I doubt they like what Putin is doing more than we do. But at the same time, if I were Romanchuk I certainly wouldn’t want Russia competing. And then when you add the doping…. its just a mess, I’m not sure which side I’m on, both sides seem right and wrong

4 months ago


4 months ago

This tough. I’m completely against the war. I think Russia should be penalized as much as possible. But I also think that if a Russian athlete is not in the army, as never expressed to be in favor of the war should he be punished too?
Just let Kolesnikov and Morozov swim.
Morozov could have been American…

4 months ago

Totally agree. Every sector of Russian society needs to feel the impact of their leader’s horrible decisions and brutality. Sadly, this includes elite Russian athletes, some of whom likely disagree with Putin but cannot speak up and some of whom likely benefit from getting special treatment and are insulated from what is really happening.

4 months ago

I strongly disagree with Romanchuk but respect his opinion

Awsi Dooger
4 months ago

All it takes is one bad person in position of power. Anyone who has followed Thomas Bach’s career knew he would make sure Russians could compete. Bach has long ties to Russia and Putin. Here’s a 2016 article that describes many of the variables that are still in play:

About Aglaia Pezzato

Aglaia Pezzato

Cresce a Padova e dintorni dove inizialmente porta avanti le sue due passioni, la danza classica e il nuoto, preferendo poi quest’ultimo. Azzurrina dal 2007 al 2010 rappresenta l’Italia con la nazionale giovanile in diverse manifestazioni internazionali fino allo stop forzato per due delicati interventi chirurgici. 2014 Nel 2014 fa il suo esordio …

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