International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach has hailed Ukraine’s biathlon gold in the women’s relay as a standout moment of the Sochi Olympics.
Yesterday, the Ukrainian foursome of Vita Semerenko, Juliya Dzhmya, Valj Semerenko and Olena Pidhrushna (pictured) held on to win the event but did not celebrate as their country continues to deal with deadly violence and unrest.
In a post-event press conference, Pidhrushna asked for everyone in attendance to bow their heads for a moment of silence.
Today, Bach praised the foursome, as well as all of Ukraine’s Olympians, for continuing to compete in Sochi despite the turmoil their nation has had to endure.
“In this moment, mourning on the one hand, but knowing what really is going on in your country, seeing your capital burning, and feeling this responsibility, and then winning the gold medal, this really stands out for me,” Bach said to the Associated Press.
“It was really an emotional moment.”
As rumors swirled about Ukrainian athletes possibly leaving Sochi, Bach told the AP that he was in contact with team officials.
But ultimately, only one of those athletes – Alpine skier Bogdana Matsotska, along with her father (a coach with the team) – chose to withdraw from competition.
Imagine what [the] signal would have been to the world community and to the Ukrainian people if the Ukrainian team would have broken up,” he said.
“That would have created the image of two Ukraines and would have made a political solution even more difficult if not impossible.”
Bach also praised Matsotska and her father for choosing to stay in Sochi even with their decision to bow out of events.
“This is also a great gesture…To declare I am part of this opposition, but there is something more than just the political disagreement – this is the unity of the Olympic team,” he said.