When Rymma Filimoshkina was practicing hammer throwing in Mariupol at the start of the war in Ukraine, her neighbors thought she was throwing a bomb.
But her “weapon” did not cause any destruction: it just allowed the 33-year-old to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games for the Deaf, which end on Sunday in Caxias do Sul, in southern Brazil. .
11,000 km from the conflict raging in their country, the Ukrainians are a hit.
Two days before the end of the competitions, they were well ahead of the medal table, with 116 podiums, more than double the total of their American runners-up.
“Here we are showing the world that we exist, that we are a powerful, independent and democratic country,” Valerii Sushkevych, president of the Ukrainian Paralympic Committee, told AFP, present in Caxias do Sul.
“A soldier called me from Ukraine to tell me that he was watching our competitions between battles and that the rage of our athletes was a Source of inspiration,” he reveals.
– Desire for peace –
These remarkable performances of Ukraine in sports for the disabled are not new.
The country had already finished sixth in the medal table for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Paralympic Games and second in the winter Games, which took place in Beijing in early March, shortly after the Russian invasion.
The recipe for this success: a “system in force for 25 years”, with specialized schools in each region and sports activities for children with disabilities from an early age, explains Mr Sushkevych.
In Brazil, Ukrainians with hearing loss are on top of the world, having been second in the last three editions, behind Russia, which was excluded from all international competitions in early March.
“I dedicate these medals to Ukraine, I am proud to represent my country”, says in sign language Dmytro Levin, 24, from Kharkiv, all smiles with his three medals (2 gold, 1 bronze) won in orienteering events.
“I’m happy to have won this medal for Ukraine. But all I really want is peace,” said Sofia Chernomorova, barely 15, a bronze medalist in badminton.
– “Vibes” –
Rymma Filimoshkina, she still remembers the vibrations felt with each explosion of bombs in Mariupol, a city martyred by the war in Ukraine.
“A lot of deaf people died because they didn’t hear the sirens and came out at the wrong time,” she laments.
In the hammer throw, the Ukrainians achieved the double: the silver medal went to Julia Kysylova, 25, who for a long time believed that she could never participate in the Games.
“When the war broke out, it was impossible to train. I spent a month locked up at home,” says the young woman from Nova Kakhovka, in the Kherson region, one of the most affected by the conflict.
She eventually managed to flee Ukraine to join her trainer in Spain, leaving her husband behind.
“It was a miracle to be able to cross the border, the trip took more than two days,” she continues.
“After the Games, I would like to come back to Ukraine to find my husband, but I don’t know if it will be possible.”