The 2022/23 season became a challenge for all Ukrainian figure skaters due to the full-scale war. Many athletes have found a new temporary home in different parts of the world. Some have ended their competitive careers, some have continued to train in the conditions they managed to find, and some have found new coaches.
It was clear that three things had happened:
- The usual training process has been disrupted;
- Frequent mass shelling of critical infrastructure by Russia makes it impossible to safely conduct training and competitions;
- Because athletes are scattered across different countries, it is difficult to gather everyone in one place.
One of the frequently asked questions throughout the season was: “What are the plans for the Ukrainian Championships?”
In the interests of the athletes, it would have been logical to postpone the adult and junior national championships this season. An alternative could have been virtual competitions developed by the ISU during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unlike European countries, Ukraine still manages sports according to the Russian-Soviet model. The Ministry of Youth and Sports conducts the Ukrainian Nationals through the organization responsible for implementing figure skating plans - the Ukrainian Figure Skating Federation (UFSF). In Ukraine, such organizations are called “federations,” although in democratic countries, this word has a different meaning. We covered this in the article “What’s wrong with the Ukrainian Figure Skating Federation?”. In fact, the democracy of European sports means that decisions are made in accordance with the interests of federation members - clubs, coaches, and athletes, and not the state.
Ukraine traditionally holds the Ukrainian Nationals solely in the interests of the state communist system: plans must be executed, state titles awarded, and the budget used. The interests of athletes or coaches are not taken into account at all. The harsh Soviet system of Ukrainian sports demanded compliance with the ministry’s orders rather than satisfying the interests of Ukrainians.
First rumors about the Ukrainian Nationals
Traditionally, the adult Ukrainian championship takes place in December, while the Junior Nationals takes place in January/February. UFSF was silent about its plans, but closer to winter it became clear that most likely, there would be nothing. Athletes adjusted their plans accordingly.
At the end of January, there were talks that the Ukrainian championship might still take place. Various letters were received from the Ministry/UFSF with specified locations and dates: at first, it was Tallinn (Estonia), then Valmiera (Latvia), and then information appeared about Boguslav (Ukraine). Athletes and coaches were simply presented with a fact.
There was no official communication from the UFSF about this, but it is not difficult to see what is behind it. The Amirhanofs couple, who mostly control the activities of the UFSF, found shelter precisely in Tallinn. Therefore, of course, the first attempts were made to hold the Ukrainian championship there, and then somewhere nearby: in Latvia. These are partially Russian-speaking countries that help Ukrainians a lot.
However, neither the first nor the second, and perhaps not even the third options worked out, and it was decided to hold the Ukrainian championships in the city of Boguslav. The opinion of figure skaters and coaches was, of course, not asked.
“Do not announce, please”
At Skate Ukraine, we do everything in our power to preserve and disseminate information about Ukrainian figure skating - both in Ukraine and beyond its borders. Calendars and announcements of competitions are one of the most important directions of communication for Ukrainians, and we have built a whole platform for this: with online results, international, interclub and Ukrainian competitions, integrated and translated rules, starting lists, etc.
Therefore, when we learned more or less stable information about the Ukrainian championships (senior and junior), we immediately planned an announcement. However, we received the following request from the organizers on the rink: “We kindly ask you not to publish the championship announcement.” When asked “Why?”, the answer was “Everyone is afraid.”
Knowing the representatives of the UFSF, it is not difficult to guess what they are afraid of. Like typical Soviet employees, they have an ingrained fear of being punished for any step to the left or right of what’s written in the ministry’s orders: this behavior is very familiar. Since Ukrainian figure skating championships are held not for athletes and coaches, but to comply with orders, the request “not to publish an announcement” sounds logical to them. The main thing is to comply with the order and avoid being punished by state.
There will be no announcement
Even though we have the main information about the Ukrainian Nationals that are being held at the expense of taxpayers this season, we are practically being begged not to publish the announcement. Many people already know the dates and location, but everyone is asked not to say it out loud.
This request goes against our goals of promoting and disseminating information about Ukrainian figure skating. The only reason we decided to agree to this request is that, despite its official and important name, the “Ukrainian Nationals” is a very depressing event, the level of which is lower than the level of an average European children’s competition organized by parents and clubs. We have been covering these championships for 18 years, and the problems behind the low quality have not disappeared. Neither the quality of the competition, nor the quality of judging, nor the treatment of athletes will ever change as long as Ukraine adheres to the communist sports system. This season, considering the reasons described at the beginning of the post, these competitions will make even less sense, especially when “they are strongly requested not to announce it.”
Although this can no longer be called an announcement, the Junior Ukrainian Nationals starts today. Unfortunately, that’s all information we have at the moment.