One of the answers why with each successive Olympic Games, Ukraine earns less and less medals. Svitlana Akhadova, Inna Hryshchun and Anastasiya Todorova, Ukraine’s kayak rowers tell how their coach Olexiy Semykin was fired, and how they got separated with their strokeswoman Mariya Kichasova and got another strokeswoman Mariya Povkh, who they never trained with before. Let’s hear their story.
How come you didn’t earn bronze?
Inna Hryshchun: The main thing for an athlete is his coach. And we didn’t get one – thanks to all our officials who arranged it so to take him away from us.
Anastasiya Todorova: So our team collapsed.
Inna Hryshchun: Yes, in the beginning of the season. Of course, we’re glad we’re here in Rio; but on the other hand, we only lacked one final step to the award – both in pairs and in fours. Many of our athletes – Yuriy Cheban, for instance, – were well aware of how the training was going, and they said all the same: the head coach and the Sports Ministry are the ones to be blamed. They summoned us for some meetings, where they tested, exhausted and depleted us; they did everything for us to not get the medals.
Why would they do that?
Anastasiya Todorova: To begin with, we had a team, which shaped up three years ago; thanks to its efforts, we were victorious. We won European championships and many medals in the international-level competitions over that period; In the end, when we, the team, received the Olympic license, the Ministry and our head coach Olexandr Motov decided the feather was in their cap. They decided that people in the Ministry who sat in their cabinets and watch our performances somewhere on the couch have the riht to decide who should play for the team and who should go to the Olympics. Let’s remember this: we spent our last training session in Portugal without our head coach – on our own, and even undermanned, because Mariya Povkh trained with another rower Pavlo Altukhov, and the three of us trained separately. As the training session in Portugal began, coach Olexandr Motov told us he’d not interfere in the training schedule. So we practiced autonomously; however,we also stayed in touch with our coach Olexiy Semykin – by phone. Of course there is no use crying over spilt milk, but if we take a look back, we can say we did everything we could. We walked a long and hard path.There are many people behind us, who supported us a lot, and we’re grateful for that. It’s extremely unfortunate that we have no medals.
Inna Hryshchun: Well, we’ve got medals – only two wooden ones.
Anastasiya Todorova: We fell short by a hairbreadth, and we don’t want to accuse anyone of course; but it’s quite clear that our Ministry and the coach did everything so that we don’t get any medals.
Ukraine didn’t get many medals at these Summer Olympics. How come?
Anastasiya Todorova: It’s all about the money. The money solves everything now – who’s the good guy, who’s the bad guy, who’s the strongest et cetera. When the main coach says that these particular athletes should participate in the Games, that this team has chances to win medals – the Ministry says no.
Inna Hryshchun: Ihor Zhdanov (Ukraine’s Sport Minister, - 112 International) told us that we either accept the line-up that they offer or we don’t go to Olympics at all.
Anastasiya Todorova: They kept us on our toes until the very departure to Brazil. They blackmailed us; they told us if we don’t sign the contract forbidding to leave the country, or all the more switch the national team, we would not go to the Olympics. They put psychological pressure on us, when they added two more girls who performed as substitutes during the training session; we never got the reason why there were there in first place. They told us if we don’t sign these contracts, they’d claim we used doping. So, there was plenty of psychological factors that got in the way – perhaps not just in our way… Well, to some extent, this pressure even made us stronger. But we’ve got to reveal this – after all that happened, we just can’t stay silent.
So, you say there should’ve been another person in the line-up?
Inna Hryshchun: We expected to go with our strokeswoman Mariya Kichasova, with whm we showed much better results. We were more comfortable as a team; but she stayed at home.
Anastasiya Todorova: And this is what the officials and the people in the Ministry can’t feel, can’t understand.
Inna Hryshchun: They stay in their cabinets, look in their papers and think of themselves as gods who can tell us to do whatever they want us to do. We had no other option but to obey, because we could just miss these Olympics.