The first six months of 2021 have been dominated by football and biathlon. Ukraine’s world-class Olympians, Paralympians and boxers took center stage in the second half of the year.
July 23 – August 8 – Beleniuk Gold Highlights Ukraine at Tokyo 2020
You can’t talk about the year of sport in 2021 without talking about the 2020 Olympics – file it under ‘things you only hear during a pandemic’. In the busy sporting year that the postponement of so many sporting events from 2020 has necessitated, none was bigger than Tokyo 2020 – and our Ukrainian athletes have shown up to play. From Daria Bilodid’s moving bronze medal on July 24, to Olena Starikova’s stunning silver hours before the closing ceremonies, Ukrainian athletes made the nation proud and brought back unforgettable memories to returning fans. .
Lyudmila Luzan of Ivano-Frankivsk proved to be a revelation in Tokyo, winning silver and bronze in the women’s canoe. Rivne’s Mykhailo Romanchuk set a world record en route to silver and bronze in the 1,500m and 800m swimming. Just days after marrying French tennis star Gael Monfils, Odessa’s Elina Svitolina made a comeback for the ages to win bronze in women’s tennis, while teenage Yaroslava Mahuchikh beat her teammates Iryna Herashchenko and Yuliya Levchenko for bronze in the women’s high jump. 37-year-old Ihor Reizlin’s bronze medal at his first Olympics proved his perseverance.
But the defining moment for Ukraine came in Greco-Roman wrestling on August 4 when Zhan Beleniuk added the Olympic champion to his impressive record by outscoring Hungarian Viktor Lorincz 5-1 to improve on the silver medal he won at Rio 2016. Beleniuk’s impressive victory was the only time the Ukrainian national anthem was played in Tokyo after boxer Oleksandr Khyzhniak was caught with a punch late in the final round of a fight he had dominated to let gold turn into silver.
Still, Ukraine’s 19 medals nearly doubled its performance from 2016’s 11, none more impressive than Beleniuk’s gold in wrestling.
August 22 – September 5 – Krypak powers another powerful Paralympic performance for Ukraine
Is there one event that Ukraine dominates as much as the Paralympics? The Ukrainian Paralympic team has finished in the Top 5 at every Paralympic Games – summer or winter – since 2002. Every day in Tokyo, Ukrainian Paralympic athletes shone on the world’s biggest stage, showing off their talent, athleticism and their perseverance on the way to an incredible 98 medals!
No athlete has shone brighter than Kharkiv’s Maksym Krypak – not just in Ukraine, but around the world. The speedster swimmer has won an incredible seven medals, including five gold, to become the most successful athlete at Tokyo 2020. With the eight medals (five gold) he won at Rio 2016, Krypak has become one of the most successful para-athletes of all time.
There were plenty of wellness stories to tell. Straight from the red carpet in Kiev, where a feature film (“Pulse”) about her life story was shown in theaters, 2008 Dnipro Paralympic champion Oksana Boturchuk added three more silver medals in athletics to its incredible trophy case. 2016 Olympic champion Roman Polianskyi – an IDP from Donbass – added a second consecutive Paralympic gold medal in rowing, while the Ukrainian swimming team – powered by Krypak’s seven medals – took an incredible 43 medals!
Upon his return to Ukraine, President Volodomyr Zelenskyy awarded Krypak the title of Hero of Ukraine.
September 25 – Usyk dominates Joshua to become heavyweight champion
In one of the most anticipated and lucrative boxing matches of 2021, former undisputed world cruiserweight champion of Ukraine Oleksandr Usyk finally managed to clinch the heavyweight title when he faced Britain’s Anthony Joshua for the IBF, WBO and WBA titles on September 7. 25 – and he made it count. Usyk became only the third undisputed cruiserweight champion to become heavyweight champion, joining legends Evander Holyfield and David Haye. He also became the first heavyweight champion of Ukraine since Tyson Fury won the titles from Volodomyr Klitshko in 2015. It was a masterful performance from the 2012 Olympic champion, which delighted Ukrainian fans with a convincing victory. on the former champion – and dancing his mark Hopak in the ring. after. Usyk will likely have to beat Joshua again before he has the chance to end Fury’s reign as WBC and The Ring heavyweight champion later in 2022.
October 27 – November 6 – Teenage phenomenon Zakhareyev wins world boxing title
It’s not often a boxer in Ukraine who can say he did something the great Vasily Lomachenko never could, so attribute one to Yuriy Zakhareyev from Odessa. The 19-year-old won his first world championship to become Ukraine’s youngest world champion, beating the silver medal of 19-year-old Loma at the same age. Zakhareyev burst into boxing consciousness in April when he defeated Russian Cherav Ashalayev to become the junior world champion. He looked even sharper at the world championships, where he beat six fighters in 12 days to become the lightweight middleweight world champion. Zakhareyev made it look easy, winning five of the fights 5-0, including the landslide final victory over 28-year-old Russian champion Vadim Musaev. Zakhareyev now joins 2017 world champion Oleksandr Khyzhnyak as the gold medal favorite for Ukraine at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
November 16 – Ukraine save forgettable World Cup qualifying campaign
It was a World Cup qualifying campaign for Ukraine to forget, as the team continually wasted points against inferior competition. In fact, it was kind of a revelation that the squad were still in contention on the final day of the group stage. Needing a victory on the final matchday against Bosnia and Herzegovina, combined with a loss for Finland to France – plus a little help in the goal difference department, for once – all the cards fell kindly for the yellows and blues. After scoreless first halves in both matches, Ukrainian fans were on the alert until Oleksandr Zinchenko broke through to give Ukraine a 1-0 lead. As EURO 2020 hero Artem Dovbyk led the team 2-0 in 79e minute, France had already scored twice to allow Ukraine to advance to the playoffs.
Ukraine still have to win two games to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar – against Scotland on March 24 and winner Wales / Austria on March 29, but the fact that they even made it until here is something to celebrate.
December 12 – Lomachenko shines to try to regain belts
It was a big 2021 for Ukrainian two-time Olympic champion Vasiliy Lomachenko as he secured two important victories after losing all of his lightweight belts to American Teofimo Lopez at the end of 2020. He first faced off against Japanese challenger Masayoshi Nakatani with a ninth round TKO in June. to set up a all-important fight against Ghanaian Richard Commey for the vacant WBO Inter-Continental lightweight title. The fight came just days after Lopez was knocked out by Australian George Kambosos Jr., meaning the Loma-Commey winner would likely be in contention for an undisputed title in 2022. Loma shone in the match. prime-time event at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden. , hitting Commey and dropping him in the seventh round. As Commey weathered the barrage to reach the end, Loma’s convincing victory should see the former undisputed champion claim his titles in 2022.
December 15 – Marushchak becomes the first Ukrainian weightlifting world champion
At the end of 2021, 24-year-old sensation Alina Marushchak gave Ukrainians something to celebrate as she became the country’s first woman to win a world weightlifting championship at the World Weightlifting Championships in Uzbekistan. Hopes were high after the 2019 European junior champion won her first European Championship in April. In a dominant display, she lifted 5kg more than her European Championship winner weight on her very first lift in Tashkent to show she was serious. Marushchak went on to win gold in the Snatch, Clean & Jerk and Overall events to become the first Ukrainian weightlifting champion since Timur Taimazov in 1994.