Professional Ukrainian runner joins fight against Russia

March 14, 2022
Ukrainian athletes join Ukraine's armed forces amid Russia's war on Ukraine.

It’s my duty. I am very motivated to defend my country.

Ukrainian marathoner and Tokyo 2020 Olympian Mykola Nyzhnyk on returning to his home country to fight Russian forces.
  • 26-year-old Nyzhnyk was training in Kenya to prepare for the upcoming racing season. However, on February 24th — the day Russian forces began their invasion of Ukraine — he received a phone call from his pregnant wife, Olga, who had heard explosions near Ukraine's capitol city of Kyiv.
  • Nyzhnyk also received a call from Ukraine's National Guard, which he joined voluntarily in 2016.
  • During peacetime, Nyzhnyk doesn't actively serve, though he explained that "in conditions of war, we must defend our country like all military.
    He then traveled about 5,000 miles back to Ukraine to defend his country.
  • Nyzhnyk's wife, who's also a professional runner and Olympian, is pregnant and decided to stay in Ukraine to be near her family. Of their future daughter, Nyzhnyk said: "I would like to give her the name of Myroslava. It means peace.”
  • Big Picture: Nyzhnyk is one of many Ukrainian athletes who left their sport for service.

An Olympic Marathoner's Journey from Kenya to the Front Lines in Ukraine

Ukrainian athletes join military after Russian invasion

by Jenna Lee,