Putting politicians to shame, Olympic skiers from Ukraine and Russia set political squabbles aside in a show of sportsmanship. Not only did they share the platform after winning medals, they also embraced each other.
On Sunday, Ukrainian Oleksandr Abramenko won gold in the men’s aerials event in freestyle skiing, Ukraine’s first gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Ilia Burov, an Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR), finished third, becoming the second Russian athlete to claim the medal in the nerve-racking discipline, which was introduced into the Olympics in 1994. For 26-year-old Burov, who came in a humble 16th place at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, it was the biggest success of his career so far.
At the medal ceremony, both athletes climbed to the top of the podium, leaving the silver medalist from China, Jia Zongyang, standing alone. Since Burov and all Olympic athletes from Russia have been banned from displaying the Russian flag by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Ukrainian and the Russian both stood under the Ukrainian banner, spread by Abramenko. A politically defiant embrace between the two friends followed.
In an interview with Russian outlet Sport-Express, Burov said that bitter political issues should not be a part of sports. “We are friends. We talk with each other constantly. Politics has nothing to do with us. Belarusians, Ukrainians, Russians are all friends. We are all Slavs,” Burov said, adding that his and Abramenko’s success is proof of how strong the Slavic school of freestyle is.
Abramenko’s fiancé, fellow freestyle skier Alexandra Orlova, was born in Moscow and competed for OAR at the Olympics. She finished eighth in the ladies’ aerials final on February, 16.