The history of the Ukrainian Olympic movement started as long as in 1952 when athletes from Ukraine took part in the Helsinki Olympics. Over the years, sport in Ukraine has got a portion of memorable moments and a fair share of world records (not only in Olympic disciplines). Let’s have a look back and remember, perhaps, the greatest of them.
Pole vaulter Sergey Bubka’s world records
During his brilliant career, pole vaulter Sergey Bubka won six consecutive IAAF World Championships, an Olympic gold medal, and broke the world record for men’s pole vault 35 times. His last outdoor record dates back to 1994 when he jumped 6.14 m at the competitions in Sestriere, Italy, and became the author of a mark that no one managed to reach till 2020. Swedish pole vaulter Armand Duplantis managed to overscore this record by 1 cm.
Sergey Bubka also held the world record in indoor — 6.15 m, which he set in 1993 in Donetsk, Ukraine. But in 2014, Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie jumped even higher — 6.16 m.
In addition, Bubka is a ten-time world champion and 1988 Seoul Olympic champion. He is recognized as one of the most outstanding athletes in history. Sergey Bubka is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for the highest number of world achievements in athletics.
Andriy Shevchenko, the first to win the Ballon d’Or (‘Golden Ball’) in the history of modern Ukraine
The most prestigious football award was given to Andriy Shevchenko, the recent coach of the national football team of Ukraine, in 2004 after 4 nominations earlier.
In total, 14 times Ukrainian footballers were nominated to win the Ballon d’Or, and, apart from Shevchenko, two more Ukrainians were honoured with one of the most prestigious football awards. Oleg Blokhin and Igor Belanov won the Golden Ball in 1975 and 1986 respectively, while they were playing for Dynamo Kyiv.
Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko hold several boxing records
Wladimir Klitschko holds records for the longest cumulative heavyweight title reign of all time, with more than 4,382 days as world heavyweight champion, and most fighters beaten for the world heavyweight championship, at 23.
In 2018, Wladimir and his brother Vitali entered the Guinness World Records book as the champion brothers who had the largest number of fights and gathered in the family hands all the champion belts in the heavyweight category. Klitschko brothers have made a great impact on sport in Ukraine, giving inspiration to several generations of talented award-winning athletes.
World record of the ‘goldfish’ Yana Klochkova in Sydney
At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Yana Klochkova made a name for herself all over the world, setting a world record in the 400-meter medley swimming and a European record in the 200-meter medley swimming — two gold and one silver medal in total.
The ‘goldfish’ of Ukrainian swimming did not stop there, winning two more gold medals in four years at the Olympics in Athens and becoming the most awarded Olympian from Ukraine.
Inessa Kravets’ world record in the triple jump
One of the most durable world records in women’s athletics that no one could break for 26 years belonged to Inessa Kravets in the triple jump. The athlete set it at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg, showing a result of 15.50 m. The following year she won the Olympic gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, becoming the first-ever women’s champion in the triple jump.
In 2021, at the Tokyo Olympic Games, Inessa Kravets’ record didn’t remain intact. Yulimar Rojas from Venezuela added 17 cm to it, having landed at the mark of 15.67 m.
Lilia Podkopayeva, gymnastics’ power and grace
As one of the most prominent Ukrainian athletes in the 1990’s, the legend of the sport in Ukraine, Lilia Podkopayeva gathered a full house of sporting awards during her career — 45 golden medals, 21 silver and 14 bronze within competitions of all possible levels, including the Olympic Games. In Atlanta 1996, she became a two-times Olympic champion (with an all-around title, by the way) while adding one Olympic silver to her collection.
Lilia Podkopayeva is known for both gracious and powerful performances, and her own gymnastics style as well. Lilia was not afraid to experiment and contribute to the heritage of this sport. Three of Lilia’s signature skills now are named after her — a round-off half-on to front pike-half vault, and a double front and double front-half on floor.
Elina Svitolina, the most successful Ukrainian tennisplayer
Ukrainian tennis star Elina Svitolina set many national records, reaching the highest place among Ukrainian tennis players in the world rankings (#3 at the WTA rankings). Besides, she is the only one to win the WTA Finals, the only Ukrainian woman to reach the semifinals of the Grand Slam singles. Elina is a quarterfinalist of the 2016 Olympic Games and a bronze medalist of the Tokyo Olympics.
Three Ukrainians who conquered the chess world
In 1998, Ruslan Ponomariov became the world’s youngest grandmaster, and in 2002 — the youngest world champion. By doing that, he broke the former record of Garry Kasparov.
Anna Ushenina entered chess history as the first world champion from Ukraine (2012), after which she became the 28th woman to win the title of international grandmaster.
Mariya Muzychuk, who took part in her first chess tournament when she was six became a world champion among women in 2015 and the best chess player in the world the same year.
So, this was a short introduction to the sport in Ukraine and our sporting stars that inspire new generations of both Ukrainian and world athletes. By the way, who is your sporting idol?