A Ukrainian champion boxer yesterday joined the hundreds of other Ukrainian sportsmen and women who have given their lives in defense of their country since Russia’s full-scale invasion.
30 years old Oleksandr Onyshchenko died in combat near Bakhmut, the Boxing Federation of Ukraine announced on its Facebook page on May 24.
"Oleksandr died near Bakhmut defending the Ukrainian homeland from the Russian enemy," the Federation said.
According to the Federation, Onyshchenko was a member of the national boxing team of Ukraine, a “master of sport of Ukraine” in boxing, and winner of the "Carpathian Cup", "Kuzhelny Cup", and "Arsyonov Cup".
Onyshchenko was originally from Sumy oblast in northeastern Ukraine.
As of April, 262 Ukrainian athletes are known to have died in their country’s defense, according to Ukraine’s Sports Minister Vadym Huttsait.
The website Sports Angels provides a requiem for some of them and lists their short biographies.
Among Ukrainian athletes killed during the full-scale invasion are: Yevhen Obedinsky, captain of the national water polo team; Yevhen Harda, international kickboxing champion; champion cyclist Kostya Deneka; and archer Dmytro Sydoruk.
After Sydoruk was injured in Russia’s initial attacks on Ukraine in 2014, he represented Ukraine at the first ever Invictus Games – an event for wounded soldiers founded by the UK’s Prince Harry – in 2017 and won a silver medal in archery.
These athletes were among the many who voluntarily took up arms to defend their country following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Kyiv Post has previously reported that around half of the members and former members of the Ukrainian national rugby league team volunteered in the early days of the war and are now serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Former Ukrainian tennis players and millionaires Sergiy Stakhovsky and Alexandr Dolgopolov also volunteered.
Stakhovsky joined the military reserve in Kyiv at the start of the full-scale war last year, before being deployed to a mortar unit.
Dolgopolov also signed up at the beginning of the war and is now a drone operator, in a unit attached to Ukrainian military intelligence.
While on leave from front line positions some time ago, Stakhovsky spoke to France’s L'Équipe.
"Seeing bodies doesn't matter to us anymore," Stakhovsky said. "Force of habit, let's say. Unfortunately, humans can adapt to anything. So, we adapt to the bombardments. We adapt to fear. And we adapt to death."
Ukraine is internationally advocating that Russia be banned from the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“[Russian athletes] all support this war and attend events held in support of this war," Ukrainian Sports Minister Huttsait has said.
However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recommended the gradual return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competition as “neutrals” who will not compete under their national flags.
The IOC has not yet decided on Russian and Belarusian participation in the Paris Games, but has said that athletes and support personnel “who actively support the war”, or are contracted to Russian or Belarusian military or security agencies cannot compete.
In a recent update of its website, the IOC doubled-down and emphasized the “autonomy of sport”. It has also called on governments not to decide whether an athlete can participate in global events "solely on the basis of their nationality" and "not to use the Olympic Games and our international competitions as a tool for political sanction".
For its part, Ukraine announced in April that its athletes will not take part in qualifying events for the 2024 Games if they have to compete against Russians, a decision the IOC criticized and said would “hurt only Ukrainian athletes”.
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The Olympics pretend to shun politics, but nationalism is part of every Olympic scoreboard. Each medals stage features a scoreboard with the athletes' names, and nationalities. National medal counts are customary as well. The odd 'neutral flag' simply draws attention. Everybody knows who they are. Those nations still count their wins and use them for propaganda. Don't forget how athletes use live, worldwide broadcast to sneak nationalist symbolism in.
Equal opportunities don't exist when rich nations can devote endless resources to athletes. A nation whose government organized systematic doping, and now systematic destruction of competitors' athletic populations, athletic facilities, trainers, and families mocks everything the Olympic world thinks it stands for. What place does sportsmanship have? Fair play? Opportunity?
Hitler gave the Olympics a fat black eye, notwithstanding Jesse Owens spoiling his day. History is destined to repeat itself. Russia's every foul win will be paraded before a pride-filled nationalist population.
The Olympics ought to give more thought to the real sportsmanship they celebrate. I don't have the answers, but the meaninglessness is rotting the fish from the head.
Rest in peace Hero, Slava Ukraini!