Ukraine-Russia: Scottish figure skater raises funds to bring Ukrainian athletes to international competition

Fife skater Mika Bosphorus-Ward is raising funds to bring six skaters from Ukraine to the Championships in Obersdorf.

Teacher Mika Bosphore-Ward, who competes internationally for Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Figure Skating Club in adult competitions, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to bring the group of six Ukrainian skaters to the adult international competition in Obersdorf , next month.

The skaters, who were all living in kyiv or Kharkiv when the war broke out a month ago, fled their homes – some to other parts of Ukraine, others abroad.

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Together with other international adult skaters, Mr Bosphore-Ward, who skates at the Fife ice rink in Kirkcaldy and has to compete himself in Obersdorf, plans to fund the skaters’ travel, accommodation and help pay competition entry fees. . The event, organized by the International Skating Union and known as “Obi”, is the main competition on the adult figure skating calendar for skaters aged 28 and over.

Alyona Shevchenko, Anastasiia Olkhova and Daria Yakovenko in a previous competition before the war.

He said: “Figure skating is a sport for everyone, something that can keep you fit and healthy for life. We are fortunate to have a real adult circuit with major international competitions where we meet and compete every year, which helps us form lasting friendships around the world. The Ukrainian team is an important part of our family. They are our friends, our sisters from another country.

“When war hit their beautiful country, we felt lucky that our family survived. However, many had to flee to survive, with nothing but a passport in hand. We have all seen and heard of the horrors of this horrible and stupid war, but they lived it. Our friends are the strongest people we know: they never complain, they stay optimistic and are grateful to just be alive. It’s just not fair.

He added: “It’s our turn to show them how much they mean to us. We can help. They haven’t really smiled or been happy for more than a month now, and speaking to them, their main wish is to be reunited with their skating family, to share a beautiful passion and to express themselves on the ice. Oberstdorf, the biggest international competition for adults, takes place in May. Some of them could make the trip but they need our help.

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The skaters – Olena Zlobintseva, Daria Yakovenko, Oksana Mazurko and Alyona Shevchenko from Kharkiv and Anastasia Olkhova and Valeriia Yas from Kyiv – hope to attend the competition on May 23. Some have had to leave their skates behind in war-torn Ukraine and are scrambling to get them sent out in time for the competition – or to find new ones.

Mr Bosphore-Ward, who has so far raised over £2,000 through his crowdfunder, said: “We hope they will all be reunited with their skates by then. It is difficult, because in certain regions where they come from, women cannot go out in the street, the risk is too great. Only people with guns and rifles can go out on the street, so one skater had to hand her keys to someone who is a police officer, who can then send them. It’s horrible.

He added: “This Obi isn’t about scores, regardless of whether they’ve been able to train. It’s about them all together with their skating family.”

Ms Yakovenko said: “Obersdorf is a very special place. I first entered this contest in 2016 and became part of this wonderful family. And when a month ago I found myself sleeping on the subway platform in Kharkiv, it was my family of skaters who cared if I was still alive, who kept talking to me so that I don’t go crazy living under the bombs.

“Coming to Obi this year is not just about sharing a passion for skating, but rather sharing a message of friendship, love and help.”

Mr Bosphore-Ward’s actions mirror those of world ice dancing champion Gabriella Papadakis, who was credited with helping Ukrainian Olympic ice dancers Oleksandra Nazarova and Maksym Nikitin attend the World Figure Skating Championships in France at the beginning of the month. The couple qualified for the free dance final after skating in Ukrainian flag t-shirts. They had put together a new rhythmic dance program to life-defining music in war-torn Ukraine, just days after leaving the country. They withdrew from the free dance final, saying they didn’t have time to choreograph a new routine and thought their original program was “inappropriate to dance it while people are dying and hiding in sub- soils of our country”.

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