Athletics: Tough for Ukrainians to compete against Russians at Olympics, high jump champion Yaroslava Mahuchikh says

Ukrainians will use the Paris 2024 Olympics to remind the world that Russia’s invasion is not over, high jump champion Yaroslava Mahuchikh said, adding that it will be difficult for those who must compete against athletes from Russia and Belarus.

The International Olympic Committee initially banned Russia, Belarus and its athletes from the Olympics after the 2022 invasion of Ukraine. But last year, it eased its blanket ban, allowing sports governing bodies to let Russian and Belarusian competitors qualify for the Paris Olympics as individual neutral athletes, competing without its flags, anthems or emblems.

“It will be difficult to compete with them, really, because every time you see a Russian or Belarusian athlete you remember all the destroyed houses, all the life that Russia has taken, and of course it’s so sad,” Mahuchikh told Reuters in an interview.

“But we will be fighting on the track too.”

Mahuchikh herself will not have to face Russian opponents, as her own sport of athletics is one of those that has not lifted its bans on Russian and Belarusian competitors.

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In sports where they are permitted to compete, Russians and Belarusians will need to be vetted by the IOC, and may not be members of the military or have openly supported the war.

Mahuchikh, who won gold in the high jump at the World Athletics Championships last August, was bronze medallist at the Tokyo Olympics, and said she’s going for gold in Paris.

“Of course, I want to go to the Olympic Games and win the medal for my country… It’s a good opportunity to show the world that we continue fighting, we continue doing everything possible to show that the war is not over,” she said.

The 22-year-old athlete fled her hometown of Dnipro after Russia invaded Ukraine, and is now based in Belgium. She said she hopes to visit Dnipro again after the Games.

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