Rating of the best athletes of Ukraine-2023
Despite the full-scale war with Russia, Ukrainian athletes continue to train and win major international tournaments. In 2023, gymnast Ilya Kovtun and boxer Oleksandr Usyk, footballer Heorhii Sudakov and Poltava Tank's Oleksandr Khyzhniak made a name for themselves. Some of them even manage not only to compete but also to serve in the Armed Forces.
OBOZ.UA has compiled its ranking of the best athletes of 2023, including eight athletes who showed good results in the outgoing year.
1. Ilya Kovtun (artistic gymnastics)
At the age of 20, Cherkasy gymnast Ilya Kovtun is considered one of the world's top gymnasts. And in October, at a competition in Belgium, he made a historic achievement: he was the first Ukrainian to win a silver medal at the World All-Around Championships: "I realized that I could do it, I had a chance... but the whole world was preparing for this competition! I thought that I had the country, the national team, Ukrainian gymnastics, parents, coaches behind me. So I had to do my best, and then - as God will give!"
Also at the World Championships, Kovtun helped the national team win a team license for the 2024 Olympics. Ilya brought home bronze medals in the all-around and on the uneven bars, as well as gold on the parallel bars. In addition, the Ukrainian became the most successful gymnast at the World Cup, winning the overall competition in three events.
2. Vasyl Mykhailov (freestyle wrestling)
In 2023, the bronze medalist of the World Championships and the winner of the European Championships Vasyl Mykhailov became one of the three strongest wrestlers in the world in the category up to 79 kg according to United World Wrestling. In the past year, in competitions under the auspices of UWW, the Odesa resident won 11 victories and suffered only one defeat. However, it was this defeat that cost him the World Cup final.
And 28-year-old Vasyl's gold medal at the European Championships is Ukraine's first victory at a continental championship in men's freestyle wrestling in the last 10 years.
3. Oleksandr Usik (boxing)
In 2023, WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usik was unable to fight Tyson Fury in the ring and compete for the missing WBC belt due to the British fighter's intransigence. Instead, in August, he managed to defend himself against the Englishman Daniel Dubois and ended the fight early in the 9th round.
The fight in Wroclaw was also marked by a scandal: in the 5th round, Dubois struck Oleksandr below the belt, but Daniel's promoter believed that the hit was legitimate and disagreed with the judge's verdict, saying that he should have opened the Ukrainian's account. But despite Frank Warren's appeal, the result of the fight remained unchanged.
4. OLEKSII SEREDA AND KYRYLO BOLYUKH (diving)
The young Ukrainian jumpers, 18-year-old Oleksii Sereda and 16-year-old Kirill, were included in the ranking together because they won their most high-profile victories in 2023 in tandem - they became champions of the European Games in Krakow and silver medalists of the World Championships in 10-meter diving.
In addition, Sereda has a gold medal from the 2023 European Games in the team, and Bolyukh has a gold medal in the 10-meter tower with Ksenia Bailo. And the jumpers dedicated their victories to the Armed Forces, thanks to which they can compete and perform.
5. HEORHII SUDAKOV (football)
The best Ukrainian footballer in 2023 was Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Heorhii Sudakov, who won the UPL championship with the miners and proved himself in the Champions League in the fall, helping the team defeat Barcelona and reach the Europa League, although there were chances for the CL playoffs. Various statistical portals named him the best in the match against the Catalans (1-2).
Heorhii became one of the stars of Euro 2023 among U-21 players, made a double in the quarterfinals with the French national team and helped the national team to enter the top 4 strongest teams on the continent and make it to the Olympic Games for the first time in history. He also became indispensable for Serhiy Rebrov's first national team. Sudakov is the only player of the Blue and Yellows who appeared in all matches of 2023 in the starting lineup. He scored in an important Euro 2024 qualifying match against Northern Macedonia (2-0).
6. Oleksandr Khyzhnyak (boxing)
The silver medalist of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics became the only Ukrainian boxer to qualify for the European Games and win an Olympic license there. Already in the first round of the final, the 27-year-old "Tank" knocked out the promising Croatian Gabriel Veocic, but his opponent was able to get up. But after massive attacks in the second round, the referee decided to end the Balkan's suffering and stopped the fight, giving the victory to Oleksandr.
Later it turned out that Khyzhnyak had injured his right arm before the final, but no one noticed. And as a result, the Poltava Tank became the first Ukrainian athlete in history to win medals at all three European Games after winning bronze in the 81 kg category in Baku 2015 and gold in Minsk 2019 (75 kg).
7. ANDRII ZAPLITNYI (karate)
Karate fighter Andrii Zaplitnyi brought Ukraine gold at the European Games in Krakow in the 75 kg category. In the group stage, he won three out of three matches, defeating Belgian Quentin Mahodin in the semifinals and Italian Daniel De Vivo in the final match.
"We have shown that Ukraine is capable of winning anywhere, and it's not about sports at all," said 22-year-old Andriy after his victory in Krakow, and then in the fall he became a World Championship medalist for the first time, winning bronze.
8. Oleh Pryimachov (Muay Thai boxing)
Our rating closes with a unique athlete, two-time World Games champion Oleh Pryimachov, who managed to defend the Ukrainian Armed Forces from the Russian occupiers and win all major competitions. He says that his commander is sympathetic to his career and lets him go to fights.
In the summer, Oleh became the champion of the European Games in the weight class of up to 91 kg, and in the fall he won a silver medal World Martial Arts Games in Saudi Arabia. On the way to the final, he defeated a representative of the Russian Federation, but did not make it to the decisive fight due to injury: "I didn't want the gold medal as much as I wanted to defeat the Russian. After that, I consider my mission in the competition fulfilled. I did not take part in the third fight because of a sports injury. I decided that it was better not to enter the ring."
Earlier, OBOZ.UA reported that the Italian club supported the boycott of the Ukrainian gymnast over Russia, wearing T-shirts with yellow and blue hearts and the words Stop War.