World Athletics renews funding for Ukrainian athletes

By Lori Ewing

(Reuters) – World Athletics will once again help fund Ukrainian athletes’ as they prepare for the Aug. 19 to 27 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, the sport’s global governing body said on Tuesday.

World Athletics announced it was renewing the Ukraine Solidarity Fund, plus several steps planned towards achieving gender equity as part of its #WeGrowAthletics campaign in celebration of Wednesday’s International Women’s Day.

World Athletics distributed over $220,000 to more than 100 Ukrainian athletes in 2022. Female athletes, including hurdler Anna Ryzhykova, comprised 70% of fund beneficiaries.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year in what Moscow calls a “special operation” since when 343 sport facilities have been destroyed, leaving an estimated 140,000 young athletes without facilities, while 40,000 athletes are training abroad.

The international athlete-led organisation Global Athlete provided the figures which cover all sports in Ukraine.

“I hope no one ever feels this despair,” said Ryzhykova, who was fifth in the 400 metres hurdles at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and won Olympic bronze in the 4×400 relay in 2012 in London.

“You forget about your career, about your dreams and you think about how to survive and how to help your family and friends to survive, and the World Athletics Solidarity Fund really saved our athletes’ careers, and gave us a chance to fight for our country in our own way.”

Ryzhykova is a member of World Athletics’ athletes commission and has pledged to run for a WA administrative position in the future.

Among its steps toward gender equity, World Athletics is set to have 40% female participation and at least one female vice-president on the World Athletics Council this year.

It is targeting 40% female participation in online courses as part of a learning pipeline for future administrators.

World Athletics also plans to expand research into representation of female athletes across media channels.

And it has set a deadline of the end of 2023 for all 214 global member federations to implement safeguarding policies.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said gender equity was an important part of reforms introduced in 2016.

“In today’s world, it is not enough to provide equal opportunity, we must provide equity,” he said in a statement.

“In order to achieve true equity in our sport, it is important that we offer our female athletes, administrators, and officials the tools and environment they need to be empowered to pursue careers at all levels of athletics.”

(Reporting by Lori Ewing in Manchester, England; Editing by Ken Ferris)