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World Cup, Canmore
2024-03-17 22:20 (CET)
Men 15 km Mass

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World Cup, Canmore
2024-03-17 22:20 (CET)
Men 15 km Mass

2023-03-24 11:15 |

Darya Blashko: I want to give myself one more chance...

Today, there is a lot of talk about allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to the Olympic Games. There are different opinions: both doubts and definite "no’s". But there are people whose opinions were formed under Russian bombs, missiles and shells such as Darya Blashko. This girl is familiar with the feeling that arises inside a person who hears a Russian warplane descending then circling in another attempt to drop bombs on peaceful city blocks. In Antholtz I wanted to talk to Dasha about this, about her health and plans, about how the biathlete lived in recent months, but the athlete's health made her miss the Italian stage of the Biathlon World Cup and did not allow me to interview her then. Nevertheless I did not give up the idea of a conversation and I contacted Dasha during the World Championship in Oberhof.

- Dasha, do you think it is right to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Olympic Games and other sports events?

- I consider the exclusion is right because Russia started the war during the Olympic Games. Although the main events had already ended, the Paralympics were under way, but this does not change the fact of violation of the main principle of the Olympics: the guns are silent while the competition continues. Do they think that people with disabilities are not people, and the principles of the Games can be so easily broken? I greatly respect the IBU for their position, when such difficult and important decisions were made almost immediately after the attack on Ukraine. The International Union of Biathletes has shown once again that it is independent of anyone when making such important decisions.

- And what do you say about the position of the athletes themselves, who are completely unembarrassed by the very fact of the war, the death of thousands of people? Athletes are people who have a backbone otherwise, they would not have achieved anything in sports. That is, it is not fear, but a conscious decision of beautiful and strong people - approval of war? Do they have the right in this case to claim participation in an event whose spirit is peace?

- Unfortunately, sport is a part of politics, no matter what anyone says. Sport is a political tool used to influence people's opinions and views. For example, nobody knew about Belarus until Daria Domrachova started winning a lot of medals. And before that they didn't even know where Belarus was. What is this, if not a part of politics? Sport plays an important role in the recognition of a country and its influence in the world. Sports in our countries are financed by the state. Therefore, the government sees the sense of investing in athletes who represent the country in international arenas and increase its influence with their victories. Be that as it may, it is one of the instruments of politics.

As for not being admitted to the Olympic Games, I consider it to be the right decision, at least for the upcoming Olympics. After all, something has to wake people up, motivate them to action. It's always easy to hide from responsibility somewhere. You can always try to sit on the fence. But you have to understand that the challenges of the time are such that you must show your own position: either you are there or you are here. I believe that the countries that support the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Olympics are doing the right thing. Unfortunately, there is no other way out...

- You often communicated with some Russian biathletes until February 24, did any of them take an interest in your fate during that time?

No, no one from Russia ever wrote or found out what was happening with me or whether I was alive. They wrote from Belarus, they even collected humanitarian aid for Chernihiv, but I cannot reveal the names of these people for obvious reasons.

- Dasha, you have taken a clear position on this issue. This position was formed in Chernihiv, where you met the war, under Russian bombs and projectiles. Do you remember that day, February 24, 2022?

- Yes, I remember. We were then in Chernihiv, at the ski base. The training was planned for that day because it was necessary to prepare for the next stage of the World Cup in Kontiolahti. I had to keep in shape. I had just come back from the Olympic Games, which went differently for me than I would have liked. Therefore, it was necessary to restart my training regime slowly. Although in the quarantine hotel at the Olympics, I supported myself as best I could. But it was, of course, not what it should be.

On the morning of that day, the coach came to me and said that he did not understand what was happening. We looked on the Internet and there was already official news about rocket attacks and an invasion. Well, training made no sense in this situation. We understood that it was serious. We went to withdraw money from an ATM to buy products, as we did not have enough because we planned to be in Chernihiv for only a few days. It's good that there were two of us, I stood in line at the ATM, and the coach went to the store, so we managed it much faster.

Returning to the base, we decided to take things down to the basement, so in case of danger, we could run to the shelter without backpacks. Even then, we heard the sounds of explosions, and something flew very close by. We spent the first night in our rooms and then decided not to risk it and moved to the basement. It was cold and damp there, and no matter how I dressed, I was still freezing.

- Didn't you think of leaving the city right away?

- Of course, there were thoughts of going to my parents, but where? Towards the tanks? And even in the first days, I did not understand what to do, and how is all this possible in the 21st century? We thought that all this would last 5-7 days and be over, but on the fifth day, we realized that everything was serious and would last a long time. We decided to stay in Chernihiv as long as possible because we could provide some help. We helped as much as we could. They collected balaclavas, flashlights, warm socks, and things for the soldiers. They were passed on through the mother of one biathlete, who actively helped the Ukrainian forces. In general, we did everything we could then.

And a little later, the coach and I found ourselves in such a position that we ourselves already needed help.

- Dasha, you and some employees of the base stayed there almost until the end, what made you then look for another shelter?

- We left there almost on the eve of its destruction. (In the photo — all that remained of the car of Daria's coach, Volodymyr Makhlayev in Chernihiv — author's note) In the evening the electricity went out. After unknown people in suspicious uniforms came, we immediately made a phone call to check on them. And it was simply scary and dangerous to stay there. And there was nowhere to cook food. The people who were with us at the base offered to go to their place, which we did. The owner of the house was named Serhiy. We were there for several days until we came under another terrible shelling. We had to move to a neighboring house, which had a well-fortified basement. We spent the night there, although there were 9 of us, and the room was about 2 by 3 meters. I did not sleep that night, it seemed to me that there was not enough oxygen in the basement for everyone.

Already in the morning, something told me that I needed to leave, but it was not so easy to do. I didn't want to cause panic. The coach and Serhii and I went to his family's house, where we had been the day before, to help remove the glass from the broken windows after the shelling, and to take some things. We were about to go back, and then there were some bangs as if firecrackers were going off. We moved outside, and there such violent attacks began. According to the principle of two walls, we hid in the bathroom. There was such a roar, we thought that the front door would be blown away. We looked out, and the neighboring house suddenly caught fire, like a match. And no one could do anything, because there was not even water to extinguish the fire. We moved to the house of Serhiy's wife's parents, but we were afraid to go into the basement, because if we collapsed there, there would be no one to save us. We just went into the house to wait out the shelling. We heard shells falling very close and a little further away. After the explosions subsided, we waited for 10 minutes and decided to go to the neighbors, in whose yard we left our car with our things and where we spent the last night. We ran in a half bent over, ready to fall to the ground at any moment. And then I got a shock. I thought that I had mistaken the house. Just imagine, there was a house, a fence, a yard, and... there is simply nothing in this place, except some burning remains. And it doesn't even smell like a fence, the whole metal fence has disappeared somewhere. I look in all directions and cannot understand anything. However, after this shelling, we were left without our things and without a car. By the way, there were still people staying in this house when we left and, fortunately, they remained alive.

During this difficult time, Zots Mykola Mykolayovych helped us a lot. He and his wife came to us and brought help, risking their lives to do it.

- Was it like that all over the city?

- No, as it turned out, it was safer in the center then. The neighborhood where we were was shelled so hard that only a few houses remained intact there. It was scary in the center when the planes arrived. I can't describe the state when you realize that the plane is coming in to drop another bomb, and you don't know where it will drop it and where you should run.

After that terrible shelling, we decided to seek shelter closer to the city center. IhorYashchenko, who lived nearby, joined us. Of course, it was difficult to find shelter at that time. Andriy Vasyliovych Deryzemlya helped us and Vyacheslav Vasyliovych Derkach too. As a result, we found a basement. To be honest, I don't know how people lived there for three weeks. It was a difficult test. There was no light there, and although I had a charged flashlight, my phone was also completely discharged by then. Even before this last shelling, the coach and I decided to collect all the money and documents and spread them in our pockets so that they were always with us because you never know if you will have time to grab a backpack or a bag in case of something. As time has shown, we did the right thing. We have nothing left except this stuff.

There was a lot of dust in the basement. I went to sleep on such a wooden pallet, and an old door was lying on it. I woke up in an hour and that's it - I can't fall asleep, and the whole night is still ahead. I could no longer lie down, my nose was clogged with dust, and I realized that I was literally breathing dust. But I am a professional athlete, and that is why I still thought about how I will ski later. There was an old chair, without a cushion and I sat there with a flashlight. I thought that if I was still awake, I would turn it on for those who needed to go out, or needed something because it was very dark.

-If you escaped from the burning house, what happened to the food?

- In the morning we already went to get food. We stood in line at the store, but in the end, we didn't buy anything because the generator there stopped working. As a result, someone found some food and we ate it. At that time, Ihor Leonidovich was invited to his wife's relatives, they offered us to stay. We spent the night there. Wonderful people, they sheltered us, and fed us. And the next day a miracle happened. Ihor Leonidovych managed to get gasoline and fill up two buses. We did not want to take risks at first and thought we should wait for the "green corridor". At that time, Chernihiv was practically surrounded. But after refuelling the buses, we decided to go anyway. It was as if God said: "Here is a sign for you. It's time to go." It was March 13.

We left by some miracle. We were not bombed, although when we were driving, I did not fasten my seat belt in order to jump out of the car faster in case of danger. Although I understood that it still wouldn't do anything, it made me a little calmer. We drove past the places where there had been battles before, talked with volunteers where it was safer to drive, and asked at roadblocks.

-Where did you go from Chernihiv?

- We first went to Ternopil, and stopped for the night on the way. There was a shelter in a school and they gave us shelter there and fed us. And the first point for us was Ternopil. There are many acquaintances there, and a biathlon base... there will was definitely be a place to spend the night. But everything in this life is not so simple. As a result, we spent one night in Ternopil and realized that we had to go further. First, to Lviv, where I was helped by Zoya Dmytrivna Smirnova, my university teacher. She told me that I could spend the night with her relatives in this city. Then we went to Khust. In general, we wanted to go to Bulgaria, my coach worked there and he had friends in that country, but we changed our minds - it was difficult to get there and Volodymyr Mykhailovych Brynzak suggested the option of Slovenia. As a result, he helped us leave for Slovenia. At that time, Uroš was organizing housing and assistance for our athletes in Poklyuka.

- And were many of our athletes there?

- At that time there was Yana Bondar, although she had finished her career, she was there, she had left because she was pregnant. Then other athletes arrived. All were collected in Ternopil and taken to Slovenia. There were about 50 of us there.

- Exactly at this time you published a post on Facebook about humanitarian aid for Chernihiv. How did you manage to organize it?

- Uroš said that Ana Bucik, an alpine ski racer, wanted to help me. We contacted her. I told her that I personally don't need special help, as I already had some things. In Poklyuka, we were fed, that is, there was no need for such help for me personally, but if there was the opportunity, it would be great to help the army, and to find an opportunity for humanitarian aid for people. We discussed some points, and I contacted Chernihiv volunteers and asked what was needed. Well done Anna, she put everything together very quickly. They brought a whole minibus, fully loaded with the necessary things. Plus, I bought one more drone with my own money and raised money for another one on social networks. I hope that it provided some help there. We handed all this over to Chernihiv in reliable hands. It was important for me to pass it on to those who will deliver everything exactly as intended. The volunteers then reported back, but I no longer posted photos on social networks, the fact of delivering aid to where it was really needed was important to me. I posted a thank you to Anna. It wasn't for PR. That post was the only way I could thank her.

- All equipment, including skis and a rifle, and all sports clothes were destroyed in Chernihiv. Where did you get the new equipment?

- Rossignol helped me in many ways. I contacted their representative, and the company sent me a whole box of things, skis, and poles. Marve sent me roller skis. Swix sent more sticks poles. Julbo sent the glasses. That is, I got the entire inventory from scratch. I am very grateful to all of them for their help.

The condition of Daria Blashko's previous rifle, with which she competed until the 2021/22 season.

- And the rifle, won't you send it by mail?

- Yes, the ministry is responsible for weapons. I had to switch to another German-made Anschütz rifle after my barrel was burned in Chernihiv. As soon as the team was able to leave, I was given a new barrel. It was made from scratch by my craftsman in Bulgaria. I managed to collect everything before the meeting in Syanki, but I did not go to the meeting itself, as I did not want to return to Ukraine then, because I had just begun to move away from everything we had survived.

- But you could start training in Poklyuka?

- Yes, when we left, there was an opportunity to ski in the snow in Poklyuka. I trained for a week. And then something happened: I barely completed one lap. I understood that something was wrong, something was happening. The next day it all happened again. I understood that it is was necessary to go gradually, to train as much as I was able. It got to the point that later I couldn't even run two kilometers cross-country. I rested for two weeks, I started training - nothing helped. They decided to do an examination. All tests are were normal. Then we decided to do the testing at the University of Ljubljana, at our request Yanez Vodičar responded, which helped us a lot. They told me that the results are similar to those of one athlete-cyclist who is regularly tested by them. Her story is very similar to mine. Here, I have an exactly identical state with her.

- So it is not so much physics as psychology?

- It turns out that it is. I was told there were two ways. Go on vacation and not think about anything for a while, or gradually get in shape step by step. The choice was mine, and I chose the second option. And before the training in Oberhof, I had already managed to carry out certain loads. Everything was fine at every training session. Even the summer World Championship was not bad, although we performed there under a crazy load.

But already in Kontiolahti, everything went wrong, some mechanisms were activated, it is difficult to understand which ones. I understand that I cannot run fast and there are no fast, sharp movements, as if everything is in slow motion. The most stressful thing is that I do not understand what is happening to me.

- How do you communicate with your parents now? Haven't you seen each other in a long time?

- Yes, a long time ago, but the trip home [in Belarus - author note] may turn out to be dangerous for me. I miss them, of course. I would like to see them, but the situation does not allow it yet. And even before the season, I couldn't risk it, to conduct such preparation, and suddenly erase all. I can't do that for the sake of the team. The state, the federation, the IBU, invested money in me. "I want" doesn't work here, and I understand that. We don't always belong to ourselves, especially professional athletes. There are conditions, and obligations.

- Dasha, do you have any thoughts on how to get out of the troubles into which the war threw you, out of the whole situation you experienced?

- There are two ways in sports. Either finish when it doesn't work out and there is a feeling that it won't work out. And the second way: get up from your knees and move on. I choose the second way for now.

- Do you have a feeling that everything will work out?

- Yes, there is. I have invested too much in sports. Basically, sports took everything from me but gave me very little in return. I hope my efforts will pay off. It's not about material things. Everything that was invested: strength, energy, time, health... it must somehow return. Something still doesn't work out. Obviously, some lessons should be learned from this. Make the right conclusions. It will be right to give yourself another year of preparation. Although ideally I would expect to run until the next Olympics. The very interesting Olympic Games await us, finally, not on some other continent, but in a familiar stadium.

I am not satisfied with today's results, I trained so much not for these results. I want to give myself another chance. And no one knows how any of the athletes would cope with such a situation. Only after a certain time do you understand how it all affects you, and a revaluation of values takes place. No matter how much you want it, you start looking at the world differently.

Hanna Osolodkina,

Comments (Number: 1)
2023-03-31 17:39
 # 1  Varambis
Цікаво, а вони саме цією мовою і вели conversartion? Чи я недоскролив до української версії? Ну, принаймні, непоганий спосіб спонукати шанувальників Дарії до підтягування своєї англійської. Якщо Дарія впорається із здоров'ям і молодь не наступатиме на п'яти, то в неї може бути не тільки one more chance.
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World Cup
# Name Score
1 VITTOZZI Lisa 1091
3 TANDREVOLD Ingrid Landmark 1044
4 BRAISAZ-BOUCHET Justine 1025
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Norway  BOE Johannes Thingnes
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