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    BRAMA News and Community Press

    BRAMA, January 3, 2003, 1:00 am ET

    Who's Number One? Ukrainian Sports in 2002
    by Lada Shara

    The end of any year provides the perfect excuse to sum up the events of the twelve months that have just passed, and the world of sports is no different. On December 23, the Association of Sports Journalists of Ukraine unveiled its list of the ten finest Ukrainian athletes of 2002.

    The runaway leader of this year's poll was swimmer Yana Klochkova, who reclaimed the top spot she was first awarded after her three-medal performance at the 2000 Olympic Games. Klochkova won eight gold medals at the three major international swimming competitions that took place in 2002 and set one world and two European records. Second place went to grandmaster Ruslan Ponomariov, who certainly can't compete with the physical attributes of his fellow sportsmen, but whose mental prowess enabled him to write his name into the chronicle of sports by becoming, at age 18, the youngest world champion in the history of chess.

    Notable is the absence of winter sports in the list, a reflection of Ukraine's medal-less performance at the 2002 Olympic Games, as well as the subsequent "defection" to Belarus of biathlete Olena Zubrilova, who had traditionally been the list's token winter-sport representative. Otherwise, the list is noticeably consistent (perhaps, unoriginal). Sports represented in each of the past three years are swimming, gymnastics, boxing, athletics and soccer.

    The stature and popularity of the Klitschko brothers is such that Wladimir was awarded third spot of the basis of three bouts fought in 2002, while Vitali was voted fifth on the basis of two bouts. Sports writers were enthusiastic in hailing the resurgence of weightlifter Denys Gotfrid after two years in the wilderness. 2002 also marked a return to the top for wrestler Elbrus Tedeyev, while swimmer Oleg Lisogor continued his run of consistent excellence by winning six major gold medals and setting two world records. This year sports journalists selected European champion shot putter Yuri Bilonog to represent the realm of track and filed.

    Although Shakhtar Donetsk's Anatoliy Tymoshchuk was voted Ukrainian Footballer of the Year, he was not included in the top-ten list, while Andriy Shevchenko, who was voted Ukraine's second-best soccer player of 2002, was included among Ukraine's sporting crиme de la crиme. That said, Shevchenko's overall standing has slipped. After finishing second in 2000, he was voted sixth in 2001 and just squeaked into the tenth spot this year.

    The inclusion of Anna Bessonova deserves particular attention, for although her achievements in 2002 were certainly outstanding, the accomplishments of her teammate Tamara Yerofeyeva were at least as, if not more, impressive. Bessonova's inclusion, therefore, may be viewed as a vote of moral support for an athlete that spent the year performing under intense psychological pressure. In February 2002 doping tests taken by Russian gymnasts Alina Kabayeva and Irina Chaschina at the 2001 Goodwill Games were shown to contain banned substances, and the two athletes were stripped of the titles they had won at the 2001 World Championship. As a consequence, Ukraine was now declared winner of the team competition, Yerofeyeva was the new all-around champion, and Bessonova was now all-around bronze medalist, in addition to which Yerofeyeva was awarded one gold and three bronze medals and Bessonova was awarded two silver and one bronze medal in event finals. However, in early 2002 Bessonova also tested positive for a banned substance. This test result drew absolutely no media attention, and Bessonova served out a two-month suspension imposed by the Gymnastics Federation of Ukraine. Many months later and on two separate occasions, however, Bessonova's positive test and suspension were dredged up and splashed all over the international press, in the first instance just prior to the World Group Championship in July, and then shortly before the European Championship in November. The prevailing feeling in the Ukrainian sports press was that the Russian media and sporting officials, still smarting from the titles lost by Kabayeva and Chaschina, were subjecting Bessonova in particular and the Ukrainian team as a whole to a base psychological attack intended to undermine their performances at the year's major competitions. Hence the particular feeling of sympathy for Bessonova on the part of Ukraine's sports writers, which may have led them to select her ahead of Yerofeyeva.

    So, for your inspection and reflection, Brama presents Ukraine's ten top athletes of 2002, as well as the accomplishments that won them the admiration of Ukraine's sports journalists.

    Yana Klochkova

    1. Yana Klochkova : BIO
    Born 7 August 1982 in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine
    Sport: swimming

    Why her?

    • Won three gold medals at the World Short-Course Championship (April 2002, Moscow)
    • Won three gold and one bronze medal at the European Long-Course Championship (July/August 2002, Berlin)
    • Won two gold and one silver medal at the European Short-Course Championship (December 2002, Riesa)
    • Set the world record (SC) in the 400m individual medley (4:27.83, 19 January 2002)
    • Set the European record (SC) in the 400m freestyle (4:01.26, 5 April 2002)
    • Set the European record (SC) in the 200m individual medley (2:08.28, 12 December 2002)
    • Finished second overall among female swimmers in the 2001/02 World Cup (1024 pts.)

    Ruslan Ponomariov

    2. Ruslan Ponomariov : BIO
    Born 11 October 1983 in Horlivka, Donetsk oblast, Ukraine
    Sport: chess

    Why him?

    • Became the youngest-ever FIDE world champion by defeating compatriot Vasyl Ivanchuk 4.5-2.5 (January 2002, Moscow)
    • Finished second at the Linares Super Tournament behind Garry Kasparov (February/March 2002)
    • Member of the team that defeated Russia at the Russia vs. Rest of the World tournament (September 2002, Moscow)

    Wladimir Klitschko

    3. Wladimir Klitschko : BIO
    Born 25 March 1976 in Solnechnyi, Kazakhstan
    Sport: boxing

    Why him?

    • Reigning WBO heavyweight champion
    • Defended WBO title against Jameel McCline (TKO 10, 7 December 2002, Las Vegas)
    • Defended WBO title against Ray Mercer (TKO 6, 29 June 2002, Atlantic City)
    • Defended WBO title against Frans Botha (TKO 8, 16 March 2002, Stuttgart)
    • Tentatively scheduled to be the final opponent of Lennox Lewis' career

    4. Denys Gotfrid : BIO
    Born in 5 February 1975 in Magnitogorsk, Russia
    Sport: weightlifting

    Why him?

    • Became world champion in the 105kg class with a combined lift of 420kg, in addition to which he won bronze medals in the snatch (190kg) and clean and jerk (230kg) (November 2002, Warsaw)
    • Won the silver medal in the 105kg class at the European Championship with a combined lift of 417.5kg, in addition to winning the silver medal in the snatch (187.5kg) and bronze medal in the clean and jerk (230kg) (April 2002, Antalya)

    Vitali Klitschko

    5. Vitali Klitschko : BIO
    Born 19 July 1971 in Belovodsk, Kyrgyzstan
    Sport: boxing

    Why him?

    • Reigning WBA heavyweight champion
    • Defended WBA title against Larry Donald (TKO 10, 23 November 2002, Dortmund)
    • Defended WBA title against Vaughn Bean (TKO 11, 8 February 2002, Braunschweig)
    • Tentatively scheduled to face Lennox Lewis in April 2003

    Oleg Lisogor

    6. Oleg Lisogor : BIO
    Born 17 January 1979 in Brovary, Kyiv oblast, Ukraine
    Sport: swimming

    Why him?

    • Won two gold medals at the World Short-Course Championship (April 2002, Moscow)
    • Won two gold medals at the European Long-Course Championship (July/August 2002, Berlin)
    • Won two gold and three bronze medals at the European Short-Course Championship (December 2002, Riesa)
    • Set the world record (LC) in the 50m breaststroke (27.19, 2 August 2002)
    • Set the world record (SC) in the 50m breaststroke (26.20, 26 January 2002)
    • Finished second overall among male swimmers in the 2001/02 World Cup (1039 pts.)

    7. Elbrus Tedeyev : BIO
    Born in 5 December 1975 in Vladikavkaz, Russia
    Sport: wrestling

    Why him?

    • Became world freestyle wrestling champion in the 66kg category (September 2002, Tehran)

    8. Anna Bessonova : BIO
    Born 29 July 1984 in Kyiv, Ukraine
    Sport: rhythmic gymnastics

    Why her?

    • Won the all-around bronze medal and silver in the team competition at the European Championship (November 2002, Granada)
    • Won three gold and one silver medal at the World Cup Final (December 2002, Stuttgart)
    • Won two silver and two bronze medals at the Grand Prix Final (November 2002, Innsbruck)
    • When Russians Alina Kabayeva and Irina Chaschina were disqualified for a doping offense in February, her fifth-place all-around finish at the 2001 World Championship was upgraded to a bronze medal (a decision still under appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sports)

    9. Yuri Bilonog : BIO
    Born 9 March 1974 in Kherson, Ukraine
    Sport: athletics

    Why him?

    • Became European champion in the shot put with a throw of 21.37m (August 2002, Munich)
    • Won the silver medal in the shot put at the IAAF Grand Prix Final (September 2002, Paris)

    Andriy Shevchenko

    10. Andriy Shevchenko : BIO
    Born 29 September 1976 in Dvirkivshchyna, Kyiv oblast, Ukraine
    Sport: soccer

    Why him?

    • Ukraine failed to qualify for the World Cup yet again, AC Milan didn't come close to winning the Italian Championship, Shevchenko spent much of the year injured, and he failed to be named Ukrainian Footballer of the Year for the first time in recent memory; but he is still a bona fide star and the sort of player, who can change the complexion of a game with a single play


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