Mykhaylo Tkachenko

Ukraine sends 1 Paralympian to Opening Ceremony athletes parade

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Most of the Ukraine Paralympic athlete delegation did not march at the Opening Ceremony amid the nation’s situation with Russia involving the Crimean peninsula.

Ukraine biathlete Mykhaylo Tkachenko carried his nation’s flag into Fisht Stadium in a wheelchair on Friday night amid loud roars from the crowd. Tkachenko was not joined by any other Ukraine Paralympians for the parade of nations.

The Ukrainian Paralympic Team is made up of 23 athletes, according to The Associated Press, which reported Tkachenko wore a serious expression and displayed no emotion.

Russian president Vladimir Putin later officially opened the Paralympics inside the same stadium.

Russia reportedly made military moves in Crimea beginning Saturday, and the area’s parliament voted to break away from Ukraine and join Russia on Thursday. NBC News has full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine situation here.

Earlier Friday, Ukraine Paralympic Committee president Valeriy Sushkevich said if “some acts happen to escalate the conflict … we will leave [Sochi], we will not be able to be here,” according to R-Sport.

Competition at the Paralympics begins Saturday and runs through March 16.

Paralympics broadcast schedule

Swimmer Reece Whitley named Sports Illustrated’s Sportskid of the Year 2015

Reece Whitley
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Swimmer Reece Whitley, who earned two silver medals at the World Junior Championships earlier this summer, was named Sports Illustrated Kids’ Sportskid of the Year for 2015.

Whitley, a breaststroker, stands 6’8” at age 15 and is a sophomore at William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia. His 100m breaststroke time is 17th in the country, and his 200m time is 10th. He is the youngest swimmer to be ranked that high in both events.

“Making an impact on a young swimmer at a meet is probably more important than the times that you swim,” Whitley told SI Kids. “All these records are meant to be broken, but if you change a kid’s life or if you put a smile on a kid’s face because you took a picture with them, that never dies.”

“Getting to know Reece a little bit, he’s incredible,” 18-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps commented. “The guy is very talented, he’s super relaxed, super outgoing. He’s seeing results, he’s having fun, he’s enjoying himself. He’s a stud.”

Phelps has been known to call out “studs” in the past who do well in Olympic years. After the 2011 World Championships, Phelps told Jimmy Fallon that Missy Franklin was a stud, too. Then, at the 2012 Olympics, Franklin picked up four gold medals and a bronze.

Whitley beat out other four finalists for the title: taekwondo athlete Natalie Hershberger, 11; speedskater Cooper McLeod, 14; rock climber Ashima Shiraishi, 14; and cross country/ track and field athlete Harper Russell, 15.

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Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan remembers slain Colorado officer, a childhood friend

Nancy Kerrigan
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Former figure skating champion Nancy Kerrigan remembers the Colorado police officer who was killed in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic as loyal, caring and a true friend.

She told media outlets that Garrett Swasey was “one of my best friends” as they grew up together practicing figure skating in Melrose, Massachusetts. Before he became a police officer, Swasey was a junior national couples ice dancing champion.

An emotional Kerrigan says she wasn’t surprised he took a career path where he helped others first. She says he always had fun and did everything with a smile.

Swasey’s father has told the Boston Globe that his son moved to Colorado in the 1980s to pursue competitive figure skating and became an officer six years ago.

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