Mykhailo Romanchuk Shows Damage to Former Training Pool from Russian Attack
For almost 18 months, a Russian invasion has ravaged Ukraine, with more than 100,000 Ukrainians killed or injured in the conflict. The country’s top swimmer, distance star Mykhailo Romanchuk, has seen the war take a personal toll with his father serving on the front lines in the Ukrainian army during the first months of fighting while Romanchuk accepted an offer from distance rival Florian Wellbrock to train together in Germany.
Now, Romanchuk has revealed that his longtime training home in Ukraine sustained severe damage after an attack by Russian missiles and drones Monday evening. Romanchuk posted before and after images to his Instagram story.
In his message, Romanchuk made clear his position on one of the key issues in global sports right now, whether or not Russian athletes will be allowed to return to international competition in time for the Paris Olympics. They have been almost universally banned since the invasion began shortly after the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Romanchuk wrote, “Sport is not politics?” while tagging the accounts of the Olympics, World Aquatics and LEN, the European swimming governing body.
World Aquatics recently announced plans to review eligibility of Russian and Belarussian swimmers to return in time for the Paris Olympics as “neutral athletes,” but Romanchuk shows here the inherent politicization of sport as his ability to train would be severely hampered if he had not left his home country.
Romanchuk first stated his position against Russian athlete inclusion after winning World Championships bronze in the 800 freestyle in 2022, specifically calling out backstroke Olympic champion Evgeny Rylov, who appeared at a Vladimir Putin rally wearing the pro-war symbol of the letter ‘Z’ on his clothing.
“If someone says sport is not politics, sport is the biggest politics,” Romanchuk said. “This is the right decision that the Russians are not here because if I saw some of the Russian guys, I don’t know how I will react to them. I don’t know: my reaction, maybe it would be aggressive, I don’t know, especially when the backstroke guy (Evgeny Rylov) joined the (Putin rally). Inside of me I was ready to go and to kill him. Before, he was a good friend but everything changed.”
Less than two months later, Romanchuk dedicated his 1500 freestyle win at the European Championships to his father, and he has continued to raise awareness for his home country while swimming on an elite level, including making finals appearances in both the 800 and 1500-meter races at last month’s World Championships.