While producing its worst ever performance at the Rio Olympics last month, Ukraine becomes a world superpower once the Paralympics start, according to the BBC.
”Sixth in Athens in 2004, they finished fourth at both Beijing 2008 and London 2012. Now they are poised to go one better, sitting a comfortable third in the medal table in Rio,” Ben Sutherland wrote in the article titled ”Ukraine`s Paralympic success: What`s the secret?” published by the BBC on Wednesday, September 14.
But the Rio performance is particularly astonishing given the country`s recent history, with an economic crisis, war in the east and the loss of their main training centre in Crimea after the region was taken over by Russia.
The country`s President, Petro Poroshenko, has described the performance of the Ukrainian Paralympians as ”incredible”, adding that the athletes prove ”that the impossible is possible”.
Ukraine`s own Paralympic chief, Valeriy Sushkevych, is the man credited with much of the success, in particular a programme he developed called Invasport.
Invasport works by having schools and facilities dedicated to Paralympic sports in every oblast (region) of Ukraine.
”In Ukraine we have set up the best system of physical education, sport and rehabilitation for people with disability,” Mr Sushkevych told the BBC.
”There is infrastructure in all regions of Ukraine, with schools for children with disabilities. This system works and brings results.
”But the system can`t work without people… people who withstand all these problems: lack of money, political crisis, war and all other troubles. And these people are extremely dedicated.”
Mr Sushkevych says he agrees that – not least because of the war – the level of preparation was ”not the highest possible”.
”The world sees the successful side of my team, what has been achieved – but no-one sees what has not been achieved,” he says.
”I can definitely tell you that we could have performed better if there was no war in Ukraine. And the aim for my whole team in the Ukrainian Paralympics movement is to show the best possible as it is so important for my country.”
Ukraine`s amazing rise at Paralympics
2016 Rio – 30 gold medals – 3rd place overall (as of early September 15)
2012 London – 32 gold medals – 4th
2008 Beijing – 24 golds – 4th
2004 Athens – 24 golds – 6th
2000 Sydney – 3 golds – 35th
1996 Atlanta – 1 gold – 44th (Ukraine`s first Games as independent nation)
The pay-off has been an extraordinary 80 medals at the time of writing.
Ukraine`s steady decline at Olympics
2016 Rio – 2 gold medals – 31st place overall
2012 London – 6 golds – 14th
2008 Beijing – 7 golds – 11th
2004 Athens – 8 golds – 13th
2000 Sydney – 3 golds – 21st
1996 Atlanta – 9 golds – 9th (Ukraine`s first Games as independent nation)