Battling the hardships: Ukraine
Among the small nations of the Nordic Combined World Cup that have to face a steep uphill battle to stay afloat and competitive, the Ukraine definitely occupies a special place. Not only are financial support and training facilities rare, the ongoing war in the eastern part of the country takes a toll out of all inhabitants, including the team of head coach Mykola Kozlov.
Most well-known are the athletes Ruslan Balanda and Viktor Pasichnyk who have made appearances in the Summer Grand Prix and occasionally in the World Cup but have also represented their country at the World Championships in Falun and the Universiade in Strbske Pleso in the recent past. In addition, two juniors, Dmitry Mazkurchuk and Sergey Malyschyk and training to become part of the team in the future.
In total, about 30 athletes are training in Nordic Combined in the Ukraine, three of them also being girls between 12 and 14 years. Unfortunately, the team was not able to bring the eligible girls to the Youth Summer Grand Prix in the summer but one athlete collected first international competition experience in a FIS Cup in ski jumping in Rasnov, Romania.
Romania, alongside with Poland is important to the team as the only facilities that are available in Ukraine are old and small only and so going abroad to train is the only option to develop on the jumping hill. Mykola Kozlov is the only one working with the athletes, although he sometimes receives support from other staff of the Kremenets ski school.
The biggest obstacle, like for many other teams is money which is made harder to tackle with the ongoing fighting in the country: „The war is a big issue not only for us but for the people of Ukraine. Currently, the war goes on the east and we live in the west but we do not have sponsors and as the public money is also going into the war, so all sports certainly a problem with financing in Ukraine“, Kozlov explains. „But we stick with the sport even when the situation is so difficult because it’s what we love to do.“
Despite all hardships, Kozlov still has optimistic goals for his athletes the next season: „We would like to get Pasichnyk among the Top 30 in the World Cup once in a while and for Balanda, it is all about gaining points in the Continental Cup so he can also compete in World Cup.“