Ukrainian athlete Yaroslava Mahuchikh won an emotional gold medal in the women’s high jump at the World Athletics Indoor Championships weeks after fleeing the Russian invasion of her homeland.
The 20-year-old, who is the reigning European Indoor high jump champion and won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics, said that on Feb. 24 she woke to the sounds of explosions in her hometown of Dnipro, according to the World Athletics competition.
She fled to the countryside and then made a grueling three-day car trip to Serbia. The championship was held in the Serbian capital, Belgrade.
After her win on Saturday, Mahuchikh said she was fighting for her country.
“I didn’t think I was doing it for myself or my medal, I was doing it for all the Ukrainian nation,” she said.
“I want to show Ukrainian people are strong people. They never give up. Our military protect our country at home and today, I protect my country on the track.”
A jump of 2.02 meters won her the gold. Australia’s Eleanor Patterson nabbed silver and Nadezhda Dubovitskaya of Kazakhstan took bronze.
Patterson, whose nails were painted blue and yellow in a tribute to Ukraine, said she was incredibly proud of her rival.
“The hardships the Ukrainian athletes have gone through, no one deserves to go through,” she said, according to Yahoo! Sports.