How many medals can Ukraine win at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing?
As the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing kick off, NV looks into what to expect from Ukrainian athletes in Beijing, and how many medals they could be bringing home.
Ukraine has historically had a turbulent relationship with winter sports - since Ukraine’s debut at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympic Games, Ukrainian athletes have won only eight medals in total (three gold, one silver, four bronze), and have placed in the top-10 Olympics medals table.
There have been bright spots, such as the phenomenal skating performance of Oksana Baiul, the championship jump of aerial skier Oleksandr Abramenko, and the biathletes’ gold race in Sochi, but in general, the picture is usually modest - Ukraine has never won any more than two medals at the Winter Olympics for its entire history of independence.
So what can we expect from the Ukrainian Olympic team at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, considering that a record number of Ukrainian athletes are competing?
The optimistic scenario
Although Ukraine will not competing at the Olympics in hockey, speed skating and curling, only the biathlon team and the national freestyle team have foreseeable medal prospects.
At the pre-Olympic competitions, more causes for optimism were provided by aerial skiers. Anastasia Novosad, Dmytro Kotovskyi and PyeongChang 2018 Olympic champion Oleksandr Abramenko in December last year, at two stages of the World Cup in Finland, took home the bronze twice in the team competition.
The national team’s crowning achievement was Novosad's gold in individual competitions.
As for Abramenko, a freestyler from Mykolaiv, a year after winning the historical gold at the Olympic Games, took second place at the World Championships in the United States - but this season, he has never appeared on the podium in individual competitions.
However, Oleksandr Abramenko already proved that he is able to conduct a perfect jump at the most crucial moment, four years ago. We expect the same in Beijing.
Biathletes, when preparing for this year’s Games, won only a single medal (bronze by Artem Tyshchenko and Darya Blashko in the single mixed relay at the stage in Oberhof), and in an individual race, only Dmytro Pidruchnyi managed to enter the top 10 in the sprint in Ruhpolding.
The mixed relay, Dmytro Pidruchnyi's sprint, Yuliia Dzhima's individual race - in each of these races, Ukrainians, in ideal scenarios, will be able to take a spot on the podium of the Olympic Games.
Additionally, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Hualindong Olympic track will be uncharted territory for all athletes - the lack of any team’s experience with the track may even the playing field for the Ukrainian side.
For Valentyna Semerenko, Olena Bilosiuk, and Artem Prima, the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, most likely, will be the last of their careers, meaning they’re likely highly motivated to put on a good show, and bring home a medal, to their supporters in Ukraine.
“Let’s be frank, if we bring at least one medal from Beijing 2022, then it will be good,” commented Youth and Sports Minister Vadym Guttsait in an interview with news outlet UNIAN. His words can mean a lot of things.
With a realistic view of Ukraine's medal prospects at the 2022 Winter Olympics, it is difficult to ignore the absence of even a hint of stability in the biathlon team’s results. It is naive to expect a medal in a situation where the team does not have a single representative in the top 30 of the World Cup individual standings.
The main and, perhaps, the only chance to see the flag of Ukraine on the pedestal in Beijing will be the freestyle team competition.
Oleksandr Abramenko, Anastasia Novosad, and Dmytro Kotovskyi showed their strength in the current season during the World Cup stage, and also took fifth place at last year's World Championship in Kazakhstan.
It is almost impossible for the Ukrainian trio under the leadership of Enver Ablaev to compete with China for the gold, but it is quite possible to offer an even match to the United States, Belarus, and the Russian national team.
The aerial skiers will make their historic debut at the Olympic Games on February 10.
Analysts at Gracenote, a company specializing in entertainment data, have listed 27 national teams that will leave the Chinese capital with at least one or more medals in their grasp - and Ukraine was not included in their list. Bookmakers agree with that opinion, estimating the probability of a complete failure of the Ukrainian national Olympic team at 58%.
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