We recall the most significant achievements of Ukrainian athletes in the past year.
The year 2023 is coming to an end. It turned out to be incredibly difficult for our entire state, which continues to heroically defend itself against the invasion of Russian occupiers. Despite the circumstances, Ukrainian athletes proudly represented their homeland on the international stage and won many victories. The Ukrainian anthem was played in their honor, and the national blue and yellow flag was raised.
At the same time, a large number of Ukrainian athletes took up arms and bravely defended the Ukrainian people from the enemy. They forever inscribed their names in the history of Ukraine. Many of them will never return from the war, because they gave their lives defending their native country from invaders.
TSN Prosport invites readers to remember the most high-profile victories of Ukrainian athletes in 2023.
Alexander Usik defended his championship belts and approached the title of “absolute”
Ukrainian Alexander Usyk continues to be at the top of world boxing. On the night of August 27, at the Tarczynski Arena in Wroclaw, Poland, he knocked out Briton Daniel Dubois in the ninth round and defended the world heavyweight champion titles according to WBO, WBA, IBO and IBF.
There was some dirty deed on the part of the British representative. In the fifth round, Dubois hit Usyk below the belt, after which he found himself on the canvas of the ring. The referee made a fair decision and did not count the knockdown, but gave Alexander a few minutes to recover.
The Ukrainian boxer took spectacular revenge on his opponent. A series of accurate blows from the Ukrainian in the eighth round forced Dubois to “take the knee,” and in the ninth round, after another knockdown, the referee stopped the fight.
After the fight, Dubois tried to justify his defeat. He claimed that his blow hit Usik not below the belt, but in the stomach. The Briton stated that he allegedly really knocked out the Ukrainian and should have taken possession of the championship belts. Daniel’s team even filed an appeal and demanded that the result of the fight be annulled , but it had no chance of success.
It is worth noting that the next fight will definitely be even more difficult for Usik. Alexander has finally signed a contract for a unification fight with WBC title holder Tyson Fury.
The battle for the title of “absolute” will take place on February 17, 2024 in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia).
The winner of the Usyk-Fury fight will become the first absolute world champion in the heavyweight division in the 21st century.
The last “absolute” in the heavyweight division was Lennox Lewis, who won this status in 1999 when he defeated Evander Golifield. Back then, the WBA, WBC and IBF titles were at stake. The WBO belt was recognized as equal in 2007, so the winner of the fight between Usyk and Fury will become the first-ever “absolute” heavyweight with four major titles.
Elina Svitolina made a bright return to the court after the birth of her child
The main star of Ukrainian tennis, Elina Svitolina, returned to the court after maternity leave in early April 2023. Last year, in mid-October, Elina became a mother for the first time , giving birth to a daughter from her husband, French tennis player Gael Monfils.
The long-awaited return to the court turned out to be extremely powerful. Already at the end of May, Svitolina became the winner of the WTA 250 series tournament in Strasbourg (France), defeating the “neutral” Russian Anna Blinkova in the final. This is Elina’s first title after the birth of her child and the 17th in her career.
Svitolina did not stop there and showed an excellent game at Grand Slam tournaments. The native of Odessa reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, and then was able to reach the semifinals of Wimbledon, repeating her best result at the Grand Slam competitions. In the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, the Ukrainian defeated the world's first racket, Poland's Iga Szwiatek.
In just six months, Svitolina made a crazy breakthrough and regained her status as the first racket of Ukraine, rising from the second thousand in the WTA rankings to 25th place.
Such amazing achievements of the Ukrainian woman did not go unnoticed by the international tennis community. At the end of 2023, Elina received the prestigious Comeback of the Year award from the Women's Tennis Association (WTA).
The Ukrainian youth football team reached the Euro semi-finals and won a ticket to the Olympics
The year 2023 brought great victories to Ukrainian football fans. The most memorable achievement was the entry of the Ukrainian youth team (U-21) into the semi-finals of the European Championship.
Ruslan Rotan's team confidently advanced from the group, beating Croatia, Romania and drawing with Spain. And then the “blue-yellows” played their best match of the tournament – Ukraine beat France in the quarterfinals, thereby winning a ticket to the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
This achievement is truly unique. For the first time in its history, Ukraine will take part in the football tournament of the Olympic Games. By the way, the Ukrainians completed their journey to Euro 2023 one step away from the final, losing to the Spaniards in the semi-finals.
The Ukrainian national football team made it to the qualifying playoffs for Euro 2024
The main national football team of Ukraine also performed well in 2023. Sergei Rebrov’s team may not have been able to directly reach the Euro 2024 final tournament, but it still has a chance to get there through the playoffs.
The Blue-Yellows finished third in a group with England, Italy, North Macedonia and Malta. Until the last moment, the Ukrainian team claimed a direct ticket to the continental championship and was close to winning it, but in the match of the final round of the group stage it could not beat Italy.
It is impossible not to mention the scandalous moment at the end of the Ukraine-Italy game, when the team of referees did not award a clear penalty for breaking the rules against Mikhail Mudryk in the Squadra Azzurra penalty area.
But this is by no means the time for Rebrov’s team to give up, because the playoffs for qualifying for Euro 2024 are ahead. To get to the European Championship, Ukrainians need to beat the team of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the semifinals, and then defeat the winner of the Israel-Iceland pair in the final. Matches are scheduled for March 21 and 26, 2024.
Let us add that if they reach the final tournament of Euro 2024, the Ukrainian national team will play there in Group E against Belgium, Slovakia and Romania.
Shakhtar's European Cup achievements
Ukraine also has something to boast about in club football. She owes this to Shakhtar Donetsk, which, even in war conditions, continues to achieve significant success in international tournaments.
Last season, the Pitmen made a big sensation by knocking out French Rennes on their way to the 1/8 finals of the Europa League.
In the current campaign, the Ukrainian champion performed well in the group stage of the Champions League. The Orange-and-Blacks scored 9 points with three wins in six matches. The Donetsk team beat the Belgian Antwerp twice and even defeated the Spanish Barcelona.
Until the last round, the Pitmen retained their chances for the 1/8 finals of the Champions League, but lost a head-to-head match to Porto and will continue to fight in the Europa League playoffs.
There, the rival of Marino Pusic's team will be the French Marseille. The play-offs for reaching the 1/8 finals of the Europa League will take place on February 15 and 22, 2024.
The Ukrainian national futsal team qualified for the 2024 World Cup
The year 2023 will be remembered for Ukraine for its important futsal victories. The Ukrainian men's futsal team qualified for the World Cup for the first time in eight years.
Alexander Kosenko's team fought for a direct ticket to the World Cup until the last round and eventually won it, defeating the Polish team in the decisive away match.
The Futsal World Cup will take place in Uzbekistan from September 14 to October 6, 2024. There, the “blue-yellows” will claim the highest places.
Yaroslava Maguchikh – queen of Ukrainian athletics
Ukrainian high jumper Yaroslava Maguchikh had a simply incredible 2023.
The 22-year-old athlete from Dnepr won gold at the European Indoor Championships in Istanbul, as well as gold at the World Championships in Budapest – this is the first gold medal for Ukraine at the World Athletics Championships in the last 10 years.
Having fulfilled the Olympic standard, Yaroslava also won a license to participate in the 2024 Olympics, which will be held in Paris.
In addition, Maguchikh won gold at the European Games and also won four stages of the Diamond League, including the season finale in Eugene, America, where she set the best result of the 2023 season in the world – 2.03 meters.
It was Yaroslava who was recognized by the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Ukraine as the “Best Athlete of 2023”, and her personal coach Tatyana Stepanova – as the “Best Coach of 2023”.
Triumphant performance of Ukrainians at the European Games
The Ukrainian national team showed outstanding results at the 2023 European Games, which took place in Krakow, Poland. The Blue-Yellows won 41 awards (21 gold, 12 silver and 8 bronze), finishing third in the final medal standings .
Ukrainians won medals at the 2023 European Games in four sports: Muay Thai (Thai boxing), karate, diving, and kayaking and canoeing.
The most successful performances for Ukraine were in athletics and Muay Thai, where our athletes won six awards each.
All medals of the Ukrainian team at the European Games 2023:
“Gold”: Lyudmila Luzan and Valeria Tereta (rowing, double canoe, 500 m), Oleg Kukharik and Igor Trunov (rowing, double kayak, 500 m), Ksenia Baylo, Danilo Konovalov, Anna Pismenskaya and Alexey Sereda (jumping water, mixed teams), Angelika Terlyuga (karate, up to 55 kg), Andrey Zaplitny (karate, up to 75 kg), Lyudmila Luzan (rowing, single canoe, 500 m), Ksenia Baylo and Kirill Bolyukh (diving, mixed , 10 m), Natalya Krol (athletics, running, 800 m), Marina Bekh-Romanchuk (athletics, triple jump), Yaroslava Maguchikh (high jump), Alexey Sereda and Kirill Bolyukh (diving, synchronized jumps, 10 m), Joan-Feiby Bejura (fencing, individual epee), Pavel and Yulia Korostylev (shooting, mixed, small-caliber pistol, 25 m), Igor Lyubchenko (Muay Thai, up to 67 kg), Alexander Efimenko (Muay Thai , up to 71 kg) and Oleg Priymachev (Muay Thai, up to 91 kg), Olga Kharlan (fencing, individual saber), Elena Kostevich, Yulia Korostyleva and Anastasia Nemets (bullet shooting, 25 meters), Oleg Kolodiy and Daniil Konovalov (jumping diving, synchronized diving, 3 m), Alexander Khizhnyak (boxing, up to 80 kg), Victoria Us (rowing, kayak-cross).
“Silver”: Dmitry Danilenko, Oleg Kukharik, Ivan Semykin and Igor Trunov (rowing, four-man kayak, 500 m), Lyudmila Luzan (rowing, single canoe, 200 m), Anita Seregina (karate, up to 61 kg), national team Ukraine in artistic swimming (acrobatic groups), Mikhail Kokhan (athletics, hammer throw), Marina and Vladislava Alekseiva (artistic swimming, duet, free program), Anastasia Pavlova and Ivan Kozhokar (archery, mixed), Egor Skurikhin (muay -thai, up to 81 kg), Ksenia Baylo and Sofia Esman (diving, synchronized diving, 10 m), Anna Ponomarenko (breakdancing), Ukrainian women's beach soccer team, Timur Brykov (kickboxing, up to 75 kg).
“Bronze”: Elena Kostevich (shooting, air pistol, 10 m), Nikita Filipov (karate, kumite, up to 60 kg), Vladislav Shepelev (athletics, triple jump), Arthur Felfner (javelin throw), Vladislav Mikitas (Muay -thai, up to 60 kg), Anastasia Mikhailenko (Muay Thai, up to 51 kg), Vladimir Stankevich (fencing, individual epee), Artem Melnik (kickboxing, up to 86 kg).
The case of Olga Kharlan and the fight against aggressor countries in sports
Unfortunately, the desperate struggle of Ukrainian athletes and officials to ensure that Russians and Belarusians were completely excluded from international competitions until the end of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, very often ran into the problem being ignored and connivance by sports federations and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to representatives of countries. aggressors.
At the end of March, the IOC recommended that international sports federations allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete in a neutral status with a number of restrictions. Russians and Belarusians were prohibited from participating in team sports, and they should not support war and contracts with the armies of aggressor states.
In response, the Ukrainian government banned Ukrainian athletes from participating in competitions where Russians and Belarusians were present. The decision of the Cabinet of Ministers applied to all competitions, including qualifying starts for the 2024 Olympics.
However, already in July , the conditions for the ban on participation in competitions where Russians and Belarusians were present were changed for Ukrainian athletes. The Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine allowed Ukrainians to compete in tournaments where athletes from aggressor countries were admitted in a neutral status.
At the end of July, a loud scandal broke out around the Ukrainian saber fencer Olga Kharlan, who was disqualified for Fencing World Championship 2023 due to his refusal to shake hands with Russian Anna Smirnova after defeating her in the first round match of the individual tournament.
The Russian woman staged a provocation and did not leave the fencing track for almost an hour, and also filed a protest against the Ukrainian due to the lack of “showing respect,” after which the tournament organizers disqualified Kharlan.
This caused a huge public outcry. As a result, the IOC granted Harlan an automatic license for the 2024 Olympics , and committee president Thomas Bach sent a letter to Olga, in which he assured of solidarity with Ukrainian athletes.
The FIE later closed the issue of Kharlan's disqualification . After receiving the “black card,” the Ukrainian should have been suspended for 60 days from all subsequent tournaments, but this did not happen.
Changed the rules of the game: how Olga Kharlan managed to resist the Russian woman
At the end of 2023, international organizations again made truly shameful decisions. First, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) allowed Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in the 2024 Paralympics in Paris under a neutral flag. And then the IOC allowed athletes from aggressor countries to participate in the 2024 Olympics in a neutral status.
A large number of athletes from around the world have been condemned admission of Russians and Belarusians to the Olympic Games, and their countries threatened to boycott the competition. Therefore, we can only hope that through joint efforts everything possible will be done to ensure that representatives of the terrorist country are not present at the 2024 Olympics and other international tournaments.
All previous sporting victories in 2023 would have been simply impossible if not for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which defended our homeland from the Russian occupiers. Many Ukrainian athletes suspended their careers and went to the front, where every day, with arms in hand, they heroically defended our country and people from a cruel enemy.
Unfortunately, not all of them will return home alive. As of December 2023, almost 400 Ukrainian athletes and coaches have died as a result of Russian aggression. Among them were both experienced world and European champions and very young athletes who sacrificed their happy lives and future for the freedom of their compatriots and the independence of Ukraine.
The Sports Committee of Ukraine, together with the Ministry of Youth Sports, created the “Angels of Sports” project – a requiem for the fallen Ukrainian athletes. The website publishes the names and short biographies of Ukrainian athletes who died as a result of the Russian invasion. Their names are already forever inscribed in history and should be imprinted in the heart of every Ukrainian.
We hope that 2024 will be successful both for Ukrainian sports and for our entire country. We continue to believe in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and help our military in every possible way so that together we can win the most important victory and liberate all the territories of our homeland from the invaders.