Paralympic Games kick off in Rio de Janeiro. Stories of Ukrainian athletes

Дата: 07 September 2016
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XV Summer Paralympic Games kick off in Rio de Janeiro today. The Ukrainian team is expected to be one of the strongest.

Ukraine participates in the summer Paralympics for the sixth time already. Ukrainian athletes won 257 medals, including 84 gold ones, during the previous games, UP.Zhyttia Ukrainian online newspaper writes.

In two previous Paralympics, in Beijing and London, Ukraine was among top five leaders in the overall standings. This time we have every chance to improve the result.

Ukrainian team in Rio will be most numerous in its history – 172 athletes.

About 4,500 athletes will take part in the XV Summer Paralympic Games. 528 sets of medals will be awarded in 22 sports. Ukraine is represented in 15 of them.

Oleksandr Mashchenko and Viktor Smirnov are swimmers and one of the most renowned members of the Ukrainian Paralympic team.

Oleksandr, who have not missed single Paralympics since Sydney in 2000, has already won four gold, one silver, and two bronze medals.

Viktor has won so far six gold, two silver and five bronze medals!

Oleksandr and Viktor are natives of Donetsk region. Both lost their sight as a result of an accident when they were nine years old.

Parents gave Oleksandr Mashchenko to a boarding school for children with visual impairments in Slovyansk town. Three years later, he was joined by Viktor Smirnov.

The athletes are grateful for their achievements to Andriy Kaznacheyev, who is now the head coach of the Ukrainian team, and who earlier worked as a physical education teacher in the Slovyansk boarding school.

The boys admit that living conditions for people with disabilities in the western countries are significantly better than in Ukraine – starting from the banal traffic lights with audible signal to the access to information. They say that they liked London the most in this aspect.

Viktor Smirnov is a graduate lawyer and manager. In 2014, he became a member of the Slovyansk City Council.

Oleksandr Mashchenko managed to graduate from the Slovyansk Pedagogical University before the outbreak of hostilities. His aim is to attract attention to the problems of people with disabilities and to provide all conditions for their integration into society.

29-year-old Yehor Dementyev from Kremenchuh is the only representative of Ukraine in cycling in Rio de Janeiro, same as in London four years ago.

In 2012, Yehor won two gold medals in the individual and team race on his debut Paralympic Games.

Yehor was hit by a car when he had finished training and returned to the base. As a result of the accident, he got broken ribs, hands, clavicles, and compression fractures of two vertebrae.

He had to learn how to walk again. At first, Yehor started to swim. He rode a bike in a month, and at the end of the year he already took part in the World Championship,” said his father, merited coach of Ukraine Viktor Dementyev.

Yehor will take part in four disciplines in Rio. The merited master of sports of Ukraine is one of the main favorites of the competition.

Lviv resident Natalia Morkvych will represent Ukraine in fencing in wheelchairs at the Paralympics.

The girl survived the traffic accident, but lost her leg. She has learnt to live with the prosthesis. Natalia Morkvych has been fencing in wheelchairs for seven years already.

She obtained her first major sports victory this year by defeating in the finals her opponent from Hungary 15: 3. Ukrainian saber fencer became the champion of Europe.

The state promises to pay the prize money to athletes for medals in Rio: $40,000 for gold medal, $26,000 for silver medal, and $18,000 for bronze medal.

The reward is three times less than the athletes without disabilities receive for their medals. However, pursuant to the government regulation, the state awards for Paralympic athletes and Olympic athletes will be equated.

Photo credit: UP.Zhyttia

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