Lviv's Golden Hopes for London 2012 Olympic Games
The Summer Olympic Games are an international event, occurring every four years, organized by the International Olympic Committee. Medals are awarded in each event, with gold medals for first place, silver for second and bronze for third, a tradition that started in 1904.
The modern Olympic Games were founded in 1894 when Pierre Fredy, Baron de Coubertin sought to promote international understanding through sporting competition.
The 1896 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the I Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in Athens, Greece, from April 6 to April 15, 1896. It was the first Olympic Games held in the Modern era. Ancient Greece was the birthplace of the Olympic Games, consequently Athens was perceived to be an appropriate choice to stage the inaugural modern Games.
During years of existence, the Olympics have increased from a 42-event competition with fewer than 250 male athletes to a 300-event sporting celebration with over 10,000 female and male competitors from 205 nations.
The United States has hosted four Summer Olympic Games, more than any other nation. The United Kingdom will have hosted three Summer Olympic Games when they return to the British capital in 2012, all of them have been (and will be) in London, making it the first city to hold the Summer Olympic Games three times. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil will be the host city of the 2016 Summer Olympics, becoming the third city in the Southern Hemisphere and the first South American city to host either the Summer or Winter Games. For the first time, the Summer Games will be in winter and the first time with a country with Portuguese its first language.
Participation of Lviv Athletes at the Summer Olympics
One of the most popular sports at Olympics is of course Track-and-Field, due to its historical past (it was represented at all Olympics starting from ancient time until present day). As well, track-and-field has numerous disciplines which offers athletes the possibility to win many medals.
Lviv’s Track-and-Field athletes have been actively participating in the Summer Olympics starting from 1912, proving that at the beginning of the XX century in Western Ukraine existed well developed athletics’ school with strong traditions. In total, Lviv at Summer Olympics has been represented by 24 athletes, who managed to win many medals of different values.
It is worth mentioning that the first athlete from Lviv at the Olympics in 1912 in Stockholm was Vasyl Ponursky who narrowly missed out on a string of medals. Lviv’s first Olympic medals came in 1924 in Paris, when Lviv hero Adam Krolikiewicz won bronze in an equestrian event and Stanisław Sośnicki, took part in two competitions - Men's 100 meters Running and Broad Jump, however he and Ponchursky failed to win any medal.
At the Olympics of 1936 (Berlin) Poland (at that time Western Ukraine was part of Poland), Lviv was represented by eight athletes among whom was Stanisława Walasiewicz (Women's 100 meters Run) who won silver medal. Kazimer Kucharski also showed good results; he came in 4th place at finals of Men's 800 meters Run, unfortunately other athletes of the team failed.
Following World War II, the Lviv sporting tradition was annexed by the Soviet authorities and utilised as part of the effort to impress the world with the excellence of the Socialist sporting traditions – from now on athletes were representing USSR.
At the Helsinki Games in 1952, Lviv native gymnast Viktor Chukarin rose to glory winning the first of what would eventually be 11-medal victories split over this and the following Games in Melbourne, Australia. Chukarin is famed as the first of the truly great Soviet gymnasts, opening the way for a tradition which continues today in all of the former republics of the USSR. Soon after the Melbourne Games he quit competitive sport and began teaching at the Lviv Institute of Physical Education as head of the Gymnastics Department. As an educator he trained several generations of gymnasts who played a key role in cementing Soviet dominance of the gymnastics section of the Games.
Next, when Lviv’s track and field athletes participated at XVI Olympics in 1956 (Melbourne), our city was represented by Yuriy Kutenko (Decathlon), Ihor Ter-Ovanesyan (Broad jump), Vitaliy Chornobay (Broad Jump and Pole vault), and Viktor Chukarin (Gymnastics) who won 2 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze medals.
During the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Lviv athletes participated with great success – Valeriy Brumel (High jump) brought home the silver medal, while Ihor Ter-Ovanesyan (Broad Jump) won the bronze medal.
At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, as part of the USSR team, Lviv’s long jumper Leonid Barkovski and Mykhaylo Storozhenko (Decathlon) participated, unfortunately with no success. However Ihor Ter-Ovanesyan (Broad Jump) won the bronze medal while Valeriy Brumel by a second attempt managed to win the gold medal for the High Jump.
Lviv athletes were very fortunate at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, as nine athletes were included in the USSR national team. Track and field athletics was represented by Ihor Ter-Ovanesyan, Leonid Barkovski, Oleg Stepanenko, Vikor Balihin (110-meter hurdles). Vira Popkova (4x100m Relay) debuted as a part of this team, and won the bronze medal, while Lidya Yasynska-Tsymosh came in 10th place in the Women's Javelin Throw. For Pavel Lednev (Modern Pentathlon), the 1968 Olympics were also very successful as he managed to win the bronze medal in the individual total, in addition to the silver medal for team total. Lednev would claim medals at three successive Games following Mexico, making him one of the top all-time modern pentathlon greats.
At the 1972 Munich Olympics 4 Lviv athletes participated - Ihor Ter-Ovanesyan, Leonid Barkovski, Pavlo Andreev (Men’s 10 km Run) and Josef Gamski (Men's Hammer Throw), who came to the final competitions, however failed to win any medals.
At the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Sergiy Senukov (High jump) was honoured by representing Lviv, however he did not have enough experience to competealongside the world’s leading athletes.
Many Lviv athletes were robbed of the glory of true Olympic gold success by the political boycotts in the 1980s, which saw the Western world and the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc organise protests against successive games in 1980 and 1984, leading to competitions being devalued and a lack of public interest in the Olympic ideal, which lost considerable credibility in the eyes of the athletics world. Thankfully, the end of the Cold War brought an end to this political interruption and since 1992, Ukraine’s athletes have returned to the podium with a comforting regularity as the newly- independent nation establishes itself as a sporting powerhouse within its own right.
Since 1992, a completely new era has begun in the Lviv region in the area of developing Track and Field athletics. Along with gaining independence in 1992, Ukraine entered into a crisis period, when old sport traditions started to reduce to ruin and new ones were not established. This period is characterized with stagnation in sports development in the Lviv region, which greatly influenced athletic results and achievements.
Despite declaring independence in the summer of 1991, fully one year before the Barcelona Games, Ukraine failed to register its Olympic Committee in time to compete as a separate nation in the 1992 Games and had to wait until Atlanta in 1996 for its official debut. At the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Ukrainian athletes were a part of the EUN (Équipe Unifiée) joint team which consisted of the representatives of the 12 former republics of the USSR. Among the athletes of the joint EUN team (Équipe Unifiée) was Viktor Radchenko (Decathlon).
It was at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta where Ukraine for the first time in history was represented as an independent state with own national team. Lviv athletes were well represented in this first Ukrainian team, with 15 Lviv natives in the national squad. Unfortunately this impressive representation failed to result in a medal haul, but Ukrainians did have plenty to cheer about, as the young Volodymyr Klitschko claimed gold in the prestigious Super Heavyweight category and immediately became an international sports superstar. This knock-out performance was nearly matched in 2000 at the Sydney Games when Lviv local Andrey Kotelnik took silver in his boxing weight category, which he (like Klitschko, would use as a stepping stone to a successful professional ring career while fighting outside of Germany.
With time, Lviv became renowned for its excellence in archery, and it was in this classical discipline that Lviv’s Dmytro Hrachev took the bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Also in Athens, Lviv’s Irina Merleni won the gold medal in the Freestyle Wrestling category.
The 2008 Beijing Olympics featured a number of new sporting events including: BMX cycling and other modern sporting disciplines, but Lviv’s chances for medals came from more traditional sources. From the total of 243 competitors on the national team, 14 representing athletes were from Lviv - Roman Bondaruk and Oleksandr Petriv (Shooting), Georgiy Chygaev (Boxing), Yaroslav Popovych (Cycling), Natalya Synyshin, Yulia Ostapchuk, Oksana Vashuk and Andriy Stadnyk (Freestyle Wrestling), Markijan Iwashko (Archery), Igor Shymechko (Weight-lifting), Yana Shemyakina (Fencing), Dmytro Demyanuk (High Jump), Vira Perederiy and Yulia Slobodyan (Artistic Gymnastics), Irina Merleni (Wrestling). At this Olympics Ukraine achieved 11th place with a total of 27 medals – 7 gold, 5 silver and 15 bronze. Among the lucky Olympic champions were Leopolitans - gold medal winner Oleksandr Petriv (Shooting Men's 25 m Rapid Pistol Fire) and silver medal winner Andriy Stadnik (Wrestling Men's Freestyle −66 kg) and bronze medal winner Irina Merleni (Wrestling Women's - 48 kg).
A total of 256 Ukrainian athletes have already qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London and participate in 26 sports according to official statement of the Ukrainian National Olympic Committee. In London our Ukrainian athletes will be competing in the following sports: Diving, Shooting, Sailing, Greco-Roman Wrestling, Rowing, Canoe/Kayak, Tae Kwon Do, Synchronized Swimming and Boxing. The athletes that qualify for the Olympics in such sports as Fencing, Triathlon, Judo, Tennis, Table tennis and Badminton will be determined based on their ranking.
At present, the following Lviv region athletes will compete in the London 2012 Olympics: Dmytro Demuyanuk (Track-and-Field), Ksenia Panteleeva and Anfisa Pochkalova (Fencing), Oleksandr Didukh (Table Tennis), Viktorya Lenyshyn (Artistic Gymnastics), Sergey Drebot (Judo), Yulia Ostapchuk and Andriy Kviatkovskyi (Wrestling) Dmytro Grachov (Archery). There are also athletes who are among the elite division of the Ukrainian team and are thought to have a fairly good chance of ending up among the medalists: Oleksandr Petriv (Shooting), Kateryna Palekha and Markijan Iwashko (Archery), Oleksandr Usik (Boxing), Igor Shymechko (Weightlifting), Yana Shemyakina (Fencing).
In London Oleksandr Petriv will be shooting for Lviv in pistol-focused sport of Men's 25 m rapid fire pistol, using all his experience of winning silver medal in 2005 at the European Championship, getting the title of European Champion in 2007 and being gold medalist of Olympic games in Beijing in 2008, where he also set a new Olympic record with total score of 780,2.
Kateryna Palekha and Markijan Iwashko will be aiming for the bull’s-eye in London as the representatives of the Lviv Archery School. Kateryna Palekha who participated in the Olympic Games in Athens (2004), is a several time silver medallist at the World Championships (2005, 2007, 2008), a several time European Champion (1998, 2002, 2004), and multiple-winner at Ukrainian Championships.
Markijan Iwashko has the title of vice-Champion of World Championship (1999, 2006), World Champion (2005), “Lviv’s Best Sportsman” (2006). He participated in the Olympic Games in Beijing (2008) but unfortunately he did not win a medal. In between the two Olympics, Iwashko was preparing very thoroughly and managed to win a bronze medal at the European Championship in 2010, a gold medal at the European Championship in 2011 as well as the title of multiple-time Champion of National competitions.
Boxer Oleksandr Usik, who is studying now at the Lviv State University of Physical culture will be carrying on the fine tradition of Ukrainian pugilists and hoping for the best in London. Merited Master of Sport Usik is a bronze medal winner at the European Championships in Plovdiv (2006), gold medal winner in Liverpool (2008) and a gold medal winner at the World Championship in Baku 2011.
Super strong Igor Shymechko will be tossing around the kilograms in the weightlifting competition in London. Lviv based Merited Master of Sport: Shymechko after winning last year’s gold medal at the European championship is now hoping to bring home the gold medal from England.
Also among Lviv’s chances of a medal is thought to be a charming graduate from the Lviv State University of Physical culture: Yana Shemyakina, who will be fencing for Ukraine. Being a gold medal winner at the European championship in Zalaegerszeg (2005), Shemyakina took part in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, however she failed to bring home any awards. The following year Shemyakina won the bronze medal at the European championship in Plovdiv (2009) and started her active training for the London Olympics. Among her latest achievements is a bronze medal at the 2nd World Cup Final in Rio de Janeiro, which took place in Brazil just before Olympics.
Almost directly after the XXX Summer Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games will be held from August 29th to September 9th, and within Ukraine’s national team 15 Lviv athletes will be participating – Anton Datsko and Andriy Demchuk (Fencing), Roksolana Dzioba-Balyan, Yuriy Kopiy, Nazar Pavlo, Bohdana Nikitenko, Natalia Pavuk, Roman Chayka, Taras Chopik (Archery), Ihor Zasyadkovych, Yuriy Pidkivka (Judo), Orysia Il’chyna and Roman Pavlyk (Track-and-Field), Maryan Kvasnytsa (Swimming).
On July 21st 2012 in Kyiv at Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) the official ceremony of wishing good luck to Ukrainian athletes participating in the XXX Olympic Games in London will take place with great fanfare.
Fans of the XXX Olympic Games can catch up with the progress of Lviv athletes at bars and restaurants around Lviv throughout July and August.