Next year, the Summer Olympic Games will be held in Paris. It’s a moment athletes work towards for their entire life, but for some – war is derailing those plans.
Maryna and Vladyslave Aleksiiva, 21 year old twins from Ukraine and competitive artistic swimmers were among thousands who fled the eastern city of Kharkiv last year after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. Their sports complex in Kharkiv was damaged by a missile in September, and they say their training sessions are often interrupted by air raid sirens.
And while they’ve continued training – they don’t want athletes from the country that invade theirs – to compete. Ukraine has threatened to boycott the Olympics entirely if Russian athletes are allowed to compete. After Russia invaded Ukraine last year, the International Olympic Committee, or IOC, banned Russian athletes from competition.
However, the IOC has recommended Russians be allowed to return to international competition as neutrals, meaning they can compete, but won’t represent Russia. Even before the invasion, Russian athletes had to compete as neutrals in Tokyo, after a doping scandal revealed a government supported doping system across many sports.
Despite the possibility of missing out on Paris, the twins have stuck to their rigorous training in Kyiv.
They won a bronze medal in the team competition in the 2020 Tokyo Games and had a successful 2022.
Despite the challenges they face, the twins remain committed to their training and hope to compete in Paris next year.