Clear objectives, a focused mind, great effort. Those are all part of an athlete’s preparation for a competition. This is especially true at the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games.
Being an athlete – especially a student-athlete – is no easy task: studies, relationships, activities, and basically their day-to-day life revolve around sport.
Now, what happens if a context as difficult as the current situation in Ukraine is added to all those responsibilities? How to concentrate on sports goals when the near future of your country is so uncertain and painful?
Mariia Holubtsova and Kyryl Bielobrov are representing Ukraine in figure skating ice dance in Lake Placid. They are students at the National Pedagogical Dragomanov University in Kyiv.
When asked about the preparation for the FISU Games, the duo said that they moved to Canada because of the conflict. It was something new for them, new country, new team and new coaches.
Holubtsova remembers: “It was a very hard journey. I was with my mother and my grandmother, and being the only women in a car was scary. Also, with Kyryl, we were not together, so it was a challenge how to give his passport, because I had it.”
She goes on about her experience in her home country.
“I hid with my family in our old house, which had a basement. We covered the window in case they broke. And also, every day, we heard explosion sounds, like gunshots, and it was not very comfortable. At night, it was louder and more intense. It started as something far away, but every day it got closer.”
Despite this harsh reality, Bielobrov recognizes that, when it comes to their athletic careers, it was a positive change as now they have more opportunities.
“When we just left Ukraine we start training in Germany. That was very stressful because a lot of things changed. But now it’s more quiet and efficient. And also, our relationship became closer.”
“We did a good job and we are really ready to show our best,” the pair said about their preparation for Lake Placid. “We were in the Youth Olympic Games in 2016 and it’s pretty similar here. It’s very nice and fun to be at the FISU Games.”
On Saturday evening, Holubtsova and Bielobrov placed fifth in the ice dance competition won by France’s Marie Dupayage and Thomas Nabais. Rounding out the podium were Lorraine McNamara and Anton Spiridonov of the USA, followed by another French duo, Natacha Lagouge and Arnaud Caffa.
Figure skating continues on Sunday with the men’s and women’s single free skating.
Written by Julieta Boschiazzo, FISU Young Reporter Photo Credit: Madeline Carek
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