Ukrainian Paralympian pulls out of race after father is captured by Russian soldiers

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Anastasiia Laletina withdrew from her race on Tuesday   (Getty Images)
Anastasiia Laletina withdrew from her race on Tuesday (Getty Images)

A member of the Ukrainian team at the Winter Paralympics in Beijing was forced to withdraw from her race on Tuesday after her father was taken prisoner by the Russian army.

Anastasiia Laletina, 19, was scheduled to take part in the women’s para biathlon middle distance sitting event but did not start the race. A spokesperson from the Ukraine team later confirmed that Laletina had withdrew after receiving the news.

Natalia Harach, the spokesperson for the Ukraine Paralympic team, told the AFP: “Her father is a soldier in the Ukrainian army and [was taken] prisoner by Russian soldiers. They beat him. She was very upset and couldn’t take part in the race.”

Ukraine sits second in the medal table at the Games after four days of competition, with five gold medals coming in the para biathlon events as well as a further gold in the para cross country skiing.

The International Paralympic Committee last week moved to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Games following the invasion of Ukraine.

Grygorii Vovchynskyi, who won a gold medal for Ukraine in the men’s standing biathlon event on the opening day of competition, dedicated his medal to those suffering at home.

“I was thinking before the race, I must try to do everything for Ukraine. I must think about war, about my country, about my people, about my president. I love Ukraine,” he said on Saturday.

“I tried thinking about the competition, but it’s difficult. What’s more important is life. It’s our people, our children What can I do? I can only dedicate this race to Ukraine and peace.”