Sports · June 22, 2022

The Ukrainian swimmer wins the medal at the World Championships as his father fights the Russians

Elite swimmer Mykhailo Romanchuk doesn’t know if his father was able to see him win a medal for Ukraine at the swimming world championships.

Romanchuk’s father is fighting in eastern Ukraine, where pockets of resistance are still denying Russia full military control of the region nearly four months after unleashing its invasion.

“It’s in a hot spot and it’s a tough time,” Romanchuk said after clinching bronze in the men’s 800m freestyle in Budapest on Tuesday.

Romanchuk does not dare to speak to his father for fear that his father’s location may be traced through the call.

“It is not possible for them to join the network because the Russians can search for everything,” Romanchuk said. “But every morning he sends me (a message) that he’s fine.”

25-year-old Romanchuk – who still intends to run the men’s 1500s, then the 10K and 5K open water races at the World Championships – hardly ever made it to Budapest.

“My mind was to go to war to defend my home,” said Romanchuk, who spent 10 days agonizing with his wife and family on the best course of action after Russia invaded his country. February 24.

“We’ve decided I can’t do anything with the gun. For me it’s better to keep training, to do everything I do best, “said Romanchuk, who last year won bronze in 800 and silver in 1500 at the Tokyo Olympics.” With my swimming I can tell. to the whole world on the situation in Ukraine ”.

When the training facilities were destroyed by the war, Romanchuk was invited by German swimmer Florian Wellbrock – who came second behind American Bobby Finke in the 800s – to join him in Germany to train.

Romanchuk and Wellbrock hugged after finishing 1-2 in qualifying for Tuesday’s race. But Finke’s good ending prevented a repeat in the final. Romanchuk finished 0.69 seconds behind Finke. The top three all set national records.

Romanchuk said he was “proud and disappointed” of his third place. He said his medal shows “that the Ukrainians will fight to the end, no matter what the situation”.

Russian athletes banned from swimming world championships

Russian swimmers and his ally Belarus were excluded from the championships. Romanchuk said he doesn’t know how he would have reacted if they weren’t.

“My reaction could possibly be aggressive, I don’t know,” Romanchuk said, referring to Olympic backstroke champion Evgeny Rylov who appeared at a pro-war demonstration in Moscow. “Inside me, I was ready to go and kill him,” he said of Rylov. “But before he was a good friend. Before. But everything has changed.”

Romanchuk spoke of the destruction that Russia has caused in his country, of the people killed, of the lives destroyed.

It makes it difficult for him to concentrate on swimming.

“Especially in the beginning, when I moved to Germany to join the group. It was difficult because mentally you are at war and you only sleep three or four hours because you always read the news, ”Romanchuk said. “It was so difficult at first, but then you realize that all you can do is swim, train, represent your country.”

For the newly minted medal, it’s time to feel proud.

“I am so proud of all the people in Ukraine. This is all I can say. I’m proud of the people, the government, the president. I’m so proud of them, “said Romanchuk.” And I’m really happy to be Ukrainian. “