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In decades, Ukrainians have left their names in history as great inventors, artists, explorers, fighters, and athletes. Yet, their contributions remain relatively unknown in Arab countries. “Inspired by winners” aims to change that: the campaign tells stories about a variety of areas where Ukrainians succeeded and may offer mutually beneficial solutions.

Look into how one may learn from Ukraine, implement Ukrainian innovations (read about them here), and partner with Ukrainians for both financial benefits and social development.

From football stadiums and tennis courts to swimming pools and boxing rings, international sports arenas remember Ukrainian faces well. Sportsmen and sportswomen from Ukraine have won Olympic medals and major championships, set world records, and significantly contributed to the development of sports globally.

Today, we will recall the greatest achievements and brightest personalities in Ukrainian sports. Those are the winners that make it worth knowing about Ukrainian athletes, take inspiration from them, and support the future of Ukrainian sports.

Oleksandr Usyk and his collection of champion belts

Who can better back up the point about Ukrainian winners than Oleksandr Usyk, a Ukrainian heavyweight boxer who has not lost a single match in his professional career? Since 2013, Usyk had 22 matches, 14 of which ended in knockouts.

In 2021, the Ukrainian boxer became heavyweight world champion, defeating Anthony Joshua (UK) and winning the WBA, WBO, IBF, and IBO belts. Since then, Usyk has defended his championship titles twice: against Joshua in a rematch and against Daniel Dubois (UK) in 2023.

Photo: Shutterstock

The most recent fight for Usyk occurred on May 19, 2024, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital. The Ukrainian boxer defeated his opponent, British Tyson Fury, and added the WBC belt to his collection. Usyk also became the undisputed world heavyweight champion for the first time in 25 years. In June 2024, however, the IBF belt will be passed on as Usyk won’t have a fight against the mandatory contender for this belt in time.

Oleksandr Usyk continues a great tradition of Ukrainian box champions: in 2010х, the Klychko brothers held many major titles. Vitalii won 45 out of his 47 fights in the professional ring, and Volodymyr won 64 out of 69 out of his fights. They were even listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the brothers with the most world heavyweight title fight wins.

The Klychko brothers.
Photo: Alexander Hassenstein / The Telegraph

Ballon d’Or and other victories of Andrii Shevchenko

Alongside boxing, football is highly popular among Ukrainians, and Andrii Shevchenko is one of the main household names in the country. In 2004, Shevchenko won the Ballon d’Or award, presented to the best European player of the year. Thus, he became the first Ukrainian to win this title since Ukraine’s independence.

Andrii Shevchenko with the Ballon d’Or award.
Photo: Andrii Shevchenko / Instagram

Andrii Shevchenko also set an unbeaten record in the history of the Ukrainian national football team with 48 goals. In addition, he became the top scorer in the UEFA Champions League two times and in the Italian championship twice.

In 2016, the footballer began his coaching career. Under the leadership of Andrii Shevchenko, the Ukrainian national team won the group in the UEFA Nations League. Then came Ukraine’s sensational entry into Euro 2020, reaching the historic quarterfinals stage.

The Ukrainian national team has actually reached the quarterfinals during the World Cup twice, once with Shevchenko as a player in 2006 and again as a coach in 2021.

Currently, Shevchenko continues to contribute to the development of Ukrainian football as the President of the Ukrainian Football Association.

Andrii Shevchenko – the new President of the Ukrainian Football Association.
Photo: Andrii Yushchak / Ukrainian Football Association

Serhii Rebrov, Ukrainian coach of UAE and Saudi Arabia teams

Ukrainian footballer Serhii Rebrov became the Head coach of the Ukrainian national team in July 2023. Under his leadership, Ukraine qualified for the final part of Euro 2024. But even before that, Rebrov can be noted for his brilliant career as both a player and a coach.

Archive photo of Serhii Rebrov as the footballer of FC Dynamo Kyiv.
Photo: FC Dynamo Kyiv

Rebrov began his career with FC Shakhtar Donetsk in 1990 and later played for FC Dynamo Kyiv. During his time with the Kyiv team as a player, Rebrov won the title of the Ukrainian Premier League 9 times, won the Cup of Ukraine 8 times, as well as the Ukrainian Super Cup one time.

In 2009, he began his coaching career with FC Dynamo Kyiv. However, Rebrov’s coaching career was not limited to Ukraine. From 2017 to 2018, he coached FC Al-Ahli Saudi, Saudi Arabia. Later, from 2021 to 2023, Rebrov coached FC Al-Ain, UAE, and led the team to victories in the UAE Pro League (2022) and UAE League Cup (2022).

Serhii Rebrov as the Head coach of the Ukrainian national team.
Photo: Ukrainian Football Association

Legendary Ukrainian coach Valerii Lobanovskyi

Ukrainian football accomplishments are not such a recent development but rather a continuation of a well-established tradition.

Ukrainian Valerii Lobanovskyi is still considered one of the best coaches in the history of world football. In 2009, according to World Football magazine, he was included in the list of the 50 best coaches in the world for 50 years (1959-2009). In 2017, UEFA included Lobanovsky in the list of the 10 most outstanding coaches of European football since the creation of the union in 1954.

Valerii Lobanovskyi as the Head coach of FC Dynamo Kyiv.
Photo: Ukrainian Football Association

Lobanovskyi began his career in the Soviet Union in 1974; in 1975, he was already known throughout Europe because FC Dynamo Kyiv, which he coached, won the most prestigious European awards for the first time – the Cup of Cups and the UEFA Super Cup. 

In 1997, Lobanovskyi took the helm of FC Dynamo Kyiv once again and, in 2000, headed the national team of Ukraine. His arrival was associated with the subsequent rise of Ukrainian football: in 1999, Dynamo reached the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League, defeating Real Madrid. In 2002, the Ukrainian national team made it to the World Cup qualifying tournament playoffs.

Lobanovskyi also headed national teams outside Ukraine: in UAE in 1990-1992 and in Kuwait in 1994-1996. He was a Bronze medalist in the 1994 Asian Games with the Kuwait national football team.

The monument to Valerii Lobanovskyi.
Photo: Ukrainian Football Association

UEFA Euro 2012 and the Donbas Arena stadium

In 2012, Ukraine hosted the European Championship for the first time, and it was a great time to shine for Donbas Arena. Although the Euro 2012 matches occurred at eight stadiums, four in Poland and four in Ukraine, the event brought great popularity to the stadium in Donetsk. The Donbas Arena was recognized as the best of all arenas for hosting the European Championship and hosted five matches.

Built in 2009, the stadium could accommodate more than 50 thousand spectators. And not just for football matches: it also hosted concerts of world stars like Beyoncé and Rihanna. 

The last match at the Donbas Arena was played on May 2, 2014. For ten years now, Donetsk has been temporarily occupied by Russia, and the world-class stadium has been abandoned, looted, and damaged by shelling.

A principled victory for Olga Harlan

Ukrainians do their sport with determination and passion. Olga Harlan from Mykolaiv is the most titled Ukrainian fencer: 14-time gold medalist at world championships, gold medalist in Beijing 2008, silver medalist in Rio 2016, and bronze medalist in London 2012. And she is also known for her principled position.

In July 2023, Harlan defeated Russian fencer Anna Smirnova in the 1/32 finals of the World Fencing Championships in Italy. The Ukrainian athlete won but was eliminated as she refused to shake hands with Smirnova.

The Ukrainian fencer Olga Harlan.
Photo: Olga Harlan / Instagram

Later, the International Fencing Federation lifted the ban on Olga Harlan’s participation in the World Championships in Milan and allowed her to participate in team competitions. Consideration of the disqualification was postponed.

The highest-ranked Ukrainian tennis player, Elina Svitolina

Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina has set many national records, being the highest-ranked Ukrainian tennis player in the world rankings (No. 3 in the WTA rankings). In addition, she became the first woman from Ukraine to reach the semifinals of the Grand Slam singles tournament and the first Ukrainian woman to win the WTA Finals in 2018. Elina is a quarterfinalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics and a bronze medalist at the Tokyo Olympics.

The Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina.
Photo: Elina Svitolina / Instagram

In 2019, Svitolina established a foundation to help young Ukrainian tennis players on their journey. Prior to the full-scale invasion, the foundation provided scholarships and grants for tennis players, trained gifted youth in international tennis academies, supported young people in their participation in international competitions, and more.

The unbeaten record of canoe sprint athlete Yurii Cheban

Yurii Cheban took part in three Olympic Games and brought back medals from all of them.

In 2008, he won a bronze medal in the men’s 500-meter single sculls in Beijing. However, In 2010, the IOC replaced the men’s 500-meter race with a distance of 200 meters. And at this distance in Athens, Cheban won his first gold medal. 

The Ukrainian Olympic champion Yurii Cheban.
Photo: Official website of the Ukrainian Canoe Federation

Cheban went to the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro with the goal of repeating his success. He gave it his all in the final and won the gold medal. The Odesa resident on a patriotic boat painted in Ukrainian flag colors with the image of a Cossack with a mace not only came first but also set an Olympic record of 39.279 seconds. 

For the Tokyo Olympics, the 200-meter race was canceled again, so no one would be able to break Yurii’s record soon. A Ukrainian canoe sprint athlete remains the only one to win two gold medals in a 200-meter race.

Cheban no longer competes himself but has been leading the Ukrainian national team since 2017.

NAVI and three major victories in esports over one year

Ukrainians, with their drive for digitalization and innovations, could not have been indifferent to esports. For more than a decade now, Ukrainian teams have been actively presenting on international platforms – and actively winning.

Ukrainian esports team NAVI in 2024.
Photo: Natus Vincere / Instagram

The Ukrainian team Natus Vincere (Latin for “Born to Win”, NAVI for short) became the first in the history of esports to win three major Counter-Strike 1.6 tournaments in one year: Intel Extreme Masters 4, Electronic Sports World Cup 2010 і World Cyber Games 2010.

In March 2024, NAVI won the PGL Major Copenhagen 2024 final against the American team FaZe Clan and became the champion of the first-ever Counter-Strike 2 tournament. After this tournament, NAVI rose from sixth to second place in the Official Counter-Strike 2 Team Rankings.

In sports and beyond, Ukrainians have always been aiming high and striving for a fair victory.

Even in the hardest of times: since Russia launched its full-scale invasion, more than 400 Ukrainian athletes and coaches have been killed, and more than 500 sports facilities have been destroyed.

However, Ukrainians continue to fight. Many talented athletes took up arms to defend the country, and many continue working and excelling at international competitions, the Olympics, and the Paralympics.

As for the nation of the winners, there is only one way forward: to win.

“Inspired by winners” campaign has been created to spotlight Ukrainian achievements across various fields. Learn more about what Ukrainians have to offer the world in terms of implementing new solutions, doing business, promoting social development – and how it is worth time, attention, and support.

For more information, read an article on Ukrainian innovations and follow ukraine.ua Instagram, Facebook, X (Twitter), and TikTok in Arabic.

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