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Ukrainian athletes make families and war-torn nation proud at Special Olympics

Sign for the Ukrainian team at the SPecial Olympics in Berlin
Sign for the Ukrainian team at the SPecial Olympics in Berlin Copyright Euronews
Copyright Euronews
By Euronews
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As the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023 enters its final weekend, Ukrainian athletes said representing their country has taken a deeper meaning.


Ukrainian swimmer Andrii Karasychenko won bronze in the 50-metre breaststroke.

He carries his father Vadim's lucky flag everywhere with him. It's yellow and blue just like their war-torn country's flag.

“It’s a small reason for joy for the people in Ukraine," Vadim said. 

"They see our Ukrainian spirit, they see that we are not giving up, like my sons."

Like more than a million other Ukrainians, Vadim’s family fled from Ukraine to Germany in March last year. Andrii’s twin brother Nikitia also swims competitively.

The Special Olympics was created in 1968. 

Today there are thousands of athletes taking part and an expected 300,000 visitors. 

More than 150 countries are competing in the Berlin event.

Ukraine’s team had to overcome some extra challenges to get to the games. Some sports facilities were damaged by the war, making practice more difficult for athletes.

“Despite the war, we continued to train, develop and improve our talents. We are strong and cope with any difficulties,” Ukrainian athlete Elizaveta Ilyenko said.

Vadim hoped others were inspired by his son’s victory.

“When we came here we had to start our lives from the beginning, from zero," he said. 

"Because here we have nothing and we had to step-by-step build, try to build and re-create our past life in Ukraine.”

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