Ukraine’s Olena Iurkovska won the bronze medal in the women’s six kilometer sitting competition, the country’s first medal, at the Sochi Paralympics on Saturday. She dedicated the medal to Ukraine independence and peace with Russia.
“I devote my first medal in Sochi to an independent Ukraine,” Iurkovska said. “Every time I race, it will be for Ukrainian independence and peace in my country.”
Tensions are sky-high between Ukraine and Russia since the Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovych was deposed on February 22. Russia is in full control of Crimea, an autonomous republic of Ukraine, and will not back out. Crimea formally asked to join the Russia Federation and scheduled a referendum on March 16. Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said the referendum is illegal.
Ukraine announced at the last minute they would participate in the Sochi Paralympics. The United Kingdom cancelled Prince Edward’s three-day trip to Sochi in protest of Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine. The US also boycotted the event because of the crisis in Crimea.
Vitaliy Lukyanenko won Ukraine’s first gold medal in men’s 7.5 kilometers for visually impaired athletes.