Ukraine Skier Bogdana Matsotska Set to Quit Sochi Winter Olympics Amid Violence

Mark Patterson@@MarkPattersonBRUK Staff WriterFebruary 20, 2014

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 18:  Bogdana Matsotska of Ukraine reacts after a run during the Alpine Skiing Women's Giant Slalom on day 11 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Alpine Center on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Bogdana Matsotska, a skier representing Ukraine at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, has withdrawn from the Games in what her father described as an act of "solidarity" for the fighting currently taking place in her homeland.

Protests in the capital, Kiev, have escalated dramatically. CNN's latest report, via Phil Black, Nick Paton Walsh and Ben Brumfield, at the time of writing, confirmed 21 deaths on Thursday morning alone.

MatsotskaGraham Dunbar/Associated Press

The protests trace their origins back to a decision by Ukraine's president, Viktor Yanukovych, to pull out of a trade deal with the European Union and instead turn toward Russia.

In an Associated Press interview, Matsotska explained that only a flight issue had prevented her from leaving Sochi already. She added that she wanted to be in Maidan camp at the heart of Independence Square in Kiev, where the protests are centred: "I don't want to participate when in my country people die, I am in Maidan but just with my soul."

She is due to ski in the slalom on Friday, which the report adds is her strongest event.

With the Games also taking place in neighbouring Russia, the pressure appears to be on Ukrainian athletes. 

In Matsotska's case, according to Al Jazeera:

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Oleg Matsotskyy, who also coaches his daughter, posted a message in Ukrainian on his Facebook page in which he assailed Yanukovych's latest actions.

"Instead of resolving the conflict through negotiations (which we had hoped he would when we left for Sochi), has drenched the last hopes of the nation in blood,'' the message read.

"In solidarity with the fighters on the barricades ... and as a protest against the criminal actions made towards the protesters, the irresponsibility of the president and his lackey government, we refuse further performance at the Olympic Games in Sochi 2014."

She was reportedly not alone, according to IOC spokesman Mark Adams, quoted by Reuters' Karolos Grohmann:

I believe some of them have decided to return home and (Ukraine Olympic Committee president) Sergey Bubka has said he absolutely respects every individual's right to make their own decision.

Bubka had, according to the Al Jazeera report, encouraged athletes to stay in solidarity. However, it highlights the unfortunate position that they currently find themselves in.

Faced with the chance to pursue lifelong, personal dreams or return to their homeland is a desperate situation to balance.

Ukraine have so far won just one medal, a bronze, in Sochi. They sent 43 athletes to the Winter Olympics, which draw to a close on Feb. 23.


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