Skier out of Olympics, citing violence in Ukraine

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 20, 2014 at 10:04 am •  Published: February 20, 2014
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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — A Ukrainian skier has withdrawn from the Olympics in response to the deaths of anti-government protesters in her country.

"I don't want to participate when in my country people die," Bogdana Matsotska told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The 24-year-old skier is refusing to ski Friday in the slalom, which is her third and best event at the Sochi Olympics.

Matsotska wants to leave the Olympics immediately to join protesters in the camp known as Maidan in Kiev's Independence Square, but said she has been unable to book a flight home.

"I am in Maidan but just with my soul," she said.

The two-time Olympian explained her frustration with Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych in an interview conducted in English and Russian.

"I think as a minimum he has to be jailed, and for a long time," Matsotska said. "For all the lives that he took, for all the lives of innocent people that came peacefully to stand for their opinion.

"I hope that I will be heard by the world and that probably somebody will step in and will help," she said.

Matsotska is remaining with Oleg Matsotskyy, her father and coach, in the athletes village in the mountains above Sochi.

"We made this decision together. It is really hard for a sportsman and coach," she said. "The people are dying and my friends and family are there and I cannot race after all this in Ukraine going on."

Matsotskyy posted a message in Ukrainian on his Facebook page in which he assailed Yanukovych's latest actions.

"Instead of resolving the conflict through negotiations (which we had hoped he would when we left for Sochi), he has drenched the last hopes of the nation in blood," the message read.

Matsotska was alerted to the fresh escalation of violence in Kiev by friends on Tuesday, hours after she raced to a 43rd-place finish in the giant slalom. She finished 27th in super-G last Saturday.

She said she could not sleep Tuesday night while worrying about friends and watching footage from Kiev online.

"As every person (in Maidan), I am afraid for my life but I hope I will never, ever be sorry about this decision," said Matsotska, who wore Ukraine Olympic team clothing in national colors of yellow and pale blue, and with her fingernails painted pale blue.

Pole vaulting great Sergei Bubka, who is the head of Ukraine's national Olympic committee, told the AP on Thursday that he met with all the Ukrainian athletes still at the games and they plan to stay in Russia and return home as a team on Monday.

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