Bilodid earns Ukraine’s first medal Not only was it Ukraine’s first medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but it was 20-year-old Daira Bilodid’s first ever Olympic medal and Ukraine’s first Olympic medal in women’s judo. In the women’s 48-kg competition, Bilodid defeated Serbia’s Milica Nikolic and Portugal’s Catarina Costa, was outpointed by Japan’s Funa Tonaki, and bounced back to win the bronze medal by besting Israel’s Shira Rishony on July 24.
The plan for covering the sports scene in 2020 certainly included Team Ukraine’s composition, performance and analysis at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Along came COVID-19 to put the world on hold for way too long. Ukraine’s elite athletes were granted an additional year of preparation for the Summer Games thanks to the pandemic.
Ukraine’s performances in the previous three Summer Olympic Games have been on a downward trend: 22 medals (seven gold) in Beijing (2008) with 243 participating athletes, 19 medals (five gold) in London (2012) among 238 athletes, and 11 medals (two gold) in Rio de Janeiro (2016) with 203 Ukrainian Olympians. Hopes of reversing the above trend will be quite challenging in Tokyo with Ukraine sending 155 athletes to compete in 22 sports.
Training Ukrainian boxer Vasyl Lomachenko is done by his father with some assistance from a psychologist. It includes street skating, juggling, handstands, solo tennis, marathons and 10-kilometer swims. Sparring sessions are 15 four-minute rounds with 30 seconds of rest in between. Fresh sparring partners rotate in every three rounds unless they are overwhelmed by too many punches, in which case they rotate sooner. Each punch is recorded and calibrated via computer chips that are placed in Lomachenko’s hand wraps.
SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. – Their 4-0 drubbing at the feet of England in their quarterfinal match on July 3 in Rome should not detract from Ukraine’s accomplishments at the 2020 European Championships. Coach Andriy Shevchenko’s national team finished undefeated in their qualifying stage, atop powerful Portugal. In group competition they put a serious scare into the Netherlands (a 3-2 loss), somewhat easily defeated an inferior North Macedonia (2-1), and played very cautiously in a 1-0 timid showing against Austria.
SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. – Andriy Shevchenko’s playing experience was a big bonus as Ukraine’s all-time scorer (48 goals) led the national soccer team into a final tournament for the first time as a coach. The 44-year-old served as Ukraine’s captain at the 2016 FIFA World Cup, led the line during UEFA Euro 2012, and was a Champions League-winning striker with AC Milan. Ukraine’s coach since 2016, he shared his football wisdom with his players at UEFA Euro 2020.
Ukraine carried over a more intense focus and strong momentum that they showed in the last twenty minutes of play against the Netherlands into their second Euro 2020 match versus North Macedonia on June 17 in Bucharest. In many ways this match was a polar opposite of their first one, the 3-2 loss to the Dutch. Against the Macedonians, the Ukrainians jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals again by Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk then hung on in the second half plus stoppage time for a 2-1 victory.
The Ukrainian Weekly’s Matthew Dubas asked viewers on June 17 during the Euro 2020 match between Ukraine and North Macedonia shown at the Ukrainian American Cultural Center of New Jersey in Whippany, N.J., questions related to the team’s strengths and weaknesses, and the decision by UEFA to pull the second part of the slogan “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes!” that was featured on Ukraine’s match uniforms for the tournament. Their responses were edited and are summarized below.
SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. – From the first 70 minutes of action, the Netherlands out-shot, out-hustled and out-played Ukraine. Ahead 2-0 in its opening Group C match of UEFA’s Euro 2020 Championship on June 13, the home team in Amsterdam was cruising toward a one-sided victory over Ukraine, who hadn’t scored a goal in Euro soccer action since 2012. The Dutch team’s total control then abruptly switched to collapse when the underdog Ukrainians tallied two quick goals to even the match at 2-2. A game that seemed comfortably sealed away required some wild saving at the end, and the Netherlands’ eventual 3-2 win left its fans more concerned than triumphant.