January 15, 2023 | at the FISU Winter University Games
Clear goals, focused mind, great effort. This is all part of the athlete’s preparation for the competition. This is especially true for the FISU World University Games in Lake Placid 2023.
Being an athlete – especially a student-athlete – is not an easy task: studies, relationships, activities and basically their daily lives revolve around sports.
And what if we add to all these responsibilities a context as difficult as the current situation in Ukraine? How do you focus on your sports goals when your country’s immediate future is so uncertain and painful?
Mariia Holubtsova and Kyryl Bielobrov represent Ukraine in ice figure skating at Lake Placid. They are students of the National Pedagogical University of Dragomanov in Kiev.
When asked about preparations for the FISU Games, the duo said that they had moved to Canada due to the conflict. It was something new for them, a new country, a new team and new coaches.
Holubtsova recalls: “It was a very hard journey. I was with my mom and grandma and being the only woman in the car was scary. Also, Kyryl and I weren’t together, so it was a challenge to give him a passport because I had one.”
He talks about his experiences in his country.
“I was hiding with my family in our old house, which had a basement. We covered the window in case it broke. Besides, we heard explosions, like gunshots, every day, and it wasn’t very comfortable. At night it was louder and more intense. It started from something very far away, but it was getting closer every day.”
Despite this difficult reality, Bielobrov admits that when it comes to their sports career, it was a positive change, because now they have more opportunities.
“Having just left Ukraine, we start training in Germany. It was very stressful because a lot has changed. But now it’s quieter and more efficient. Plus, our relationship has become closer.”
“We’ve done a good job and we’re really ready to show our best side,” the couple said of their preparations for Lake Placid. “We were at the 2016 Youth Olympic Games and it’s the same here. It’s very nice and fun to be at the FISU Games.”
On Saturday night, Holubtsova and Bielobrov took fifth place in the ice dance competition, which was won by French Marie Dupayage and Thomas Nabais. The podium was completed by Lorraine McNamara and Anton Spiridonov from the USA, followed by another French duo, Natacha Lagouge and Arnaud Caffa.
Figure skating continues on Sunday with men’s and women’s free skating.
Written by Julieta Boschiazzo, FISU Young Reporter
Photo credit: Madeline Carek
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