Heroes with a purpose – NRK Sport – Sports news, results and broadcast schedule

Sport will never matter in war. Need. But even for people at war, sport can serve as a clear unifier.

Because never has the nation’s sporting hero had a clearer place and voice in war than the Ukrainian star has in the last six months.

And their symbolic value becomes even more apparent when the country’s biggest stars are boxers and have shown their dedication to the Ukrainian cause by serving as soldiers.

Usyx’s big win

Last weekend, Ukrainian heavyweight boxer Oleksandr Usyk defended his three world championship belts after winning an epic battle against Britain’s Anthony Joshua.

The game ends with the so-called split decision cheering for Usyk, before loser Joshua caught the world champion’s attention with a totally wacky acceptance speech from behind the ring.

But neither that nor the fact that the match, which was originally planned in Kyiv, instead took place in Jeddah Saudi Arabia is not the point here.

What matters is what Ukrainian sports stars manage to pull off amid a situation where their homeland is at war with neighboring Russia.

“It was an important and necessary victory,” said a moved President Volodymyr Zelenskyj right after the game, which he later called “a symbol of the fact that no Cossack will give up what is theirs, will fight, and actually win.”

SYMBOL: Volodymyr Zelenskyj himself has become a symbol of Ukraine’s struggle for independence.


Sport has once again become the arena of Ukraine’s struggle for independence – and, in addition, an arena that all Ukrainians can participate in.

Because this match is very important ahead of the national day, Usyk himself plans to buy the rights to broadcast the match. In the end, he didn’t need it at all. Organizers of Saudi Arabia gave all unoccupied Ukraine permission to watch their 35-year-old boxing hero on open channels.

Usyk had been training in Dubai after being granted permission to leave the country and fight Russia to defend his title. Usyk initially said no, but told CNN he changed his mind after visiting a hospital where wounded Ukrainian soldiers lay, who urged him to go and fight for his country.

Boxing Joshua Usyk Saudi Arabia

CLOSE DUEL: It was a great fight between Joshua and Usyk, but in the end the Ukrainian ended up with the world championship belt.

Photo: Hasan Ammar/AP

Olympic Peace – as long as it lasts

Maybe that’s why sport contributed to the war in Ukraine from that day on. The New York Times reported in early March that intelligence reports indicated that a month earlier China had asked Russia to wait to attack Ukraine until after the Beijing Olympics.

The Chinese want the world’s undivided attention on their prestigious event.

This information has never been officially confirmed, but on February 4, President Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin met in connection with the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics.

On February 20, the Olympics have ended.

Four days later the Russian offensive was underway.

From boxing stars to mayors

Not long after, there were two figures who, apart from President Zelensky, appeared very prominent, also physically.

Brothers Vladimir and Vitaly Klitschko became central figures on the Ukrainian side from the start of the war. The brothers are legends in the sport of boxing, where both have become world champions several times. Now they have brought their status into politics – and with it the country’s defense against a Russian invasion.

Ironically, the brothers are what we might call the real children of the Soviet Union, with a father who was in the military and stationed in several places in the former great power, many of Putin’s supporters dream of this war being part of a reinvention.

That’s why they are also big heroes in Russia, and ironically Vitalij held his farewell match at the Olympic Hall in Moscow in 2012, to please Vladimir Putin, who is passionate about martial arts.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko (tv) and his brother Wladimir Klitschko stand near a destroyed apartment building in Kyiv on Monday.

BROTHERS AND HEROES: Boxing brothers Vladimir and Vitalij Klitschko in Kyiv after the attacks in March.


Two years later, retired world champion Vitalij Klitschko became mayor of Kyiv. So did he on February 24, 2022. And now the furor from Putin is over.

Along with his brother Vladimir, he has become a strong symbol of resistance via social media.

Soon, two other heroes of the country, Oleksandr Usyk and another current world champion, Vasyl Lomatchenko, also returned to their homeland and were ready to fight for their country.

Photos of Usyk and Lomatchenko in uniform and with machine guns on Instagram went around the world.

Nakatani Lomachenko's fist

WORLD CHAMPION 2: Vasyl Lomachenko after he beat Masayoshi Nakatani in a fight last June.

Photo: John Locher/AP

Dream of an exploding toilet

Something close to the rest of the world is also rooting for the Ukraine national football team as they play their crucial qualifying match for a place in the soccer World Cup later this year. But they lost an emotional game against Wales.

Nonetheless, Ukrainian players in the major leagues have used football as an arena to express their unity and struggle against the Russian occupiers.

Ukraine’s most famous player in recent times, Andriy Shevchenko, continues the struggle, including by working for the organization UNITED24, started by President Zelensky, which raises money for Ukraine’s defense. So far, they have raised over NOK 1.5 billion.

Andriy Shevchenko

SUPERSTAR: Andriy Shevchenko shot to big profile for AC Milan in the 2000s


The next cat’s life

“I won this victory for my country, my people, for all the people and military who defended the country. Many, many thanks” were the words Oleksandr Usyk spoke after the match in Jeddah last weekend.

And know his message reaches the homes of millions of citizens and women.

Usyk, nicknamed “The Cat”, exudes a rare masculine power and is the kind of hero image Vladimir Putin previously liked to associate with him. It is now only hoped that this irritation over the symbolic power that the Ukrainian athletes wield will backfire even more on the Russian president.

It is appropriate to recall Putin’s own words from 2000:

“Victory in sport unites a nation more than 100 political slogans.”


SPORTS: Vladimir Putin has long cared about Russia’s sporting achievements. In 2004, he visited the national boxing team.


When Usyk won against British Joshua in Jeddah, the aforementioned Lomachenko sat at ringside. Both have been urged by President Zelenskyy to put their arms out there and symbolize Ukrainian independence to the world.

Lomatchenko is now in the United States, where he is expected to box again in October.
Usyk’s next fight is expected in December against new British boxer, Tyson Fury, for his fourth world heavyweight boxing championship belt.

Unfortunately, it can also quickly become an opportunity to represent and inspire a nation at war.

A country that has lost more than 50 of its best athletes since the start of the war.

Boxing is called the “noble martial art”.

Unfortunately, for Ukrainian sports stars, in the last six months, art has turned into a reality that is too serious.

Britney Kirk

"Infuriatingly humble coffee guru. Travel practitioner. Freelance zombie fanatic. Certified problem solver. Food scholar. Student."

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