Bekh-Romanchuk jumping for all of Ukraine at World Championships

·3 min read

Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk says she will be leaping for the compatriots of her war-torn homeland when she chases a medal in the women's triple jump final at the World Championships in Oregon on Monday.

The 26-year-old is a realistic medal prospect at Hayward Field in Eugene, where she aims to post a top-three finish three years after claiming long jump silver at the 2019 Doha World Championships.

Bekh-Romanchuk hopes that a medal can bring a sliver of joy to her compatriots as Ukraine battles Russian forces who invaded the country in February.

"I will jump for my people, for my country," Bekh-Romanchuk said.

"Because Ukrainian soldiers, women, children need support, good news. They need victories. My country needs to win (the war)."

Like many elite Ukrainian athletes, Bekh-Romanchuk has been forced to train outside her homeland since the invasion.

Bekh-Romanchuk has been based in Italy this season, leaving Ukraine in March just before the world indoor championships in Belgrade, where she won silver in the triple jump.

That has meant an enforced separation from family including husband Mykhailo, a double Olympic swimming medallist who has been training in Germany.

Bekh-Romanchuk says she is determined to return to Ukraine once the athletics season is over.

"After season I want to come back home, I didn't see my parents in six months," she said. "I didn't see my friends. I've seen my husband only once in months.

"I stay in Italy, we have different seasons, it's not possible to see each other often, it's hard for me, I miss him."

Bekh-Romanchuk keeps track of developments in Ukraine each day, and speaks regularly to her mother via phone. She says she checks less frequently just before competition, however, in order to keep a "fresh head."

"This morning I talked to my mum and I heard (air-raid) alarms, I asked her 'All good?', it was all good, but I feel worry," she said. "Alarms in my city two or three times every day. Sometimes we have one day without alarm -- they are the best days."

Bekh-Romanchuk longs for the day when she will be able to return home and train in her own country, but admits that her life has "changed forever, will never be the same."

"I saw war," she says. "Before that I only saw war in movies. Now all Ukraine saw war, death. We are not free, but we all know about freedom.

"I want to see my parents, I want to go to my stadium, I like my stadium, I want to sleep in my bed. I'm really tired of changing training place, with all my bags. I just want to come back home."

Bekh-Romanchuk says she follows the news from Ukraine each day with a sense of dread, worried about the fate of her loved ones and in particular her father-in-law who is with the Ukrainian military near the eastern city of Donetsk.

"The situation in my country is not good. Russia bombs every time, so many cities, so many people are dying, women, children, it’s not normal...I always listen to the news because I always worry for my family and the family of my husband," she says.

"They stayed home. The father of my husband stay with Ukrainian military team near Donetsk. I always check my (father-in-law). I feel all the time worried."

rg/rcw/bb