12-year-old Ukrainian Yana Stepanenko runs Boston marathon on prosthesic legs – video

Yana, 12, ran the marathon to collect funds for a sporting prosthesis for a serviceman. Photo: Rehabilitation Center Nezlamni Ukraine/Facebook
Yana, 12, ran the marathon to collect funds for a sporting prosthesis for a serviceman. Photo: Rehabilitation Center Nezlamni Ukraine/Facebook

A girl who lost both legs in a missile strike in Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast, competed in the world-renowned Boston Marathon. The Ukrainian covered a distance of five kilometres on her prosthetic legs.

"Yana Stepanenko, this girl made of steel who lost both legs following the Russian missile strike and raced all five kilometres of the Boston marathon with a smile and love, is a representation of our powerful Ukraine and unbreakable nation," wrote the marathon participant Iryna Kushakevych.

Yana ran for a charitable cause: to gather funds for a sports prosthesis for badly injured serviceman Oleksandr Riasnyi, who had lost a limb, toi. The girl wants him to be able to run again, just as she does now.

"Oleksandr Ryasnyi has served since 2011. He served both in the ATO (anti-terrorist operation in Ukraine's Donbas in 2014-2018 – ed.) and the JFO (Joint Forces Operation, conducted in the occupied territories of Ukraine in 2018-2022). When the full-scale conflict broke out, he went on to defend his native Zaporizhzhia. He was injured on the Zaporizhzhia front last September, losing his leg.

He has now acquired a prosthetic from the Nezlamni Centre. He intends to return to the front at any rate, and he also wishes to run. It costs UAH 600,000 [approx. US$15,249 – ed.], which Yana collects now," National Rehabilitation Center Nezlamni (‘Unbreakable’ in Ukrainian – ed.) said.

The girl began preparing for the Boston Marathon more than two months before the event. She trained four times a week: twice at the National Rehabilitation Center Nezlamni and two more at the Dynamo stadium in Lviv, writes Ukrinform news agency.

"I've been through some terrible times, and I'm delighted I can now walk and run. Peter Garsh, a famous American prosthetist, provided me with running prostheses, and I fell back in love with running agat. I will run my first marathon in a week, but I have great recovery experts and coaches that work with me and push me.

My mother, brother, niece, and sister all support me. Before the Boston Marathon for five miles, I'm a little scared, but I feel I'll succeed, and I want to be an example for others." she said during an open training session on 4 April.


The girl travelled 5 kilometres with a smile on her face

Photo: Rehabilitation Center Nezlamni Ukraine/Facebook

A teenage marathon runner's family was injured on 8 April 2022, when a Russian missile struck the Kramatorsk railway station. The Russians then launched a Tochka-U missile loaded with cluster munitions at the station, where over 4,000 people were awaiting evacuation.

The attack killed 61 people and injured another 121. Yana's twin brother was the only member of the Stepanenko family to remain unharmed. Their mom lost one limb, while Yana lost both.

The family was eventually transported to the United States, where they joined a prostheses programme.

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