“We all worked so hard. Their medals are like my medals, and mine theirs.”
Ukraine stole the show on the opening day of the 2016 IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport European Championships on Friday (28 October), winning five of the six medal events in Kosice, Slovakia.
Illona Slugovyna and Olena Chynka led the way for Ukraine, each winning a pair of singles medals and then partnering up in the duo standard dances for more titles.
“My gold medals have two sides,” Slugovyna explained. “One side, it is a big joy of happiness. The second part is a hardness, meaning that the next Championships I have to show more and more of what I can do. The expectations are higher.”
The 2015 World Championships runner-up Chynka was the judges’ clear favourite across all five dances to win gold in the women’s single class 2. It was a close call for silver, but Poland’s Katarzyna Bloch’s tango, samba and rumba performances were enough for second place. Austria’s Sanja Vukasinovic, European silver medallist two years ago, reached the third podium spot.
Chynka then partnered with Oleksandr Onischenko to capture gold in the duo standard class 2. After just missing podiums at the last World and European Championships, Poland’s Joanna Reda and Pawel Karpinski challenged the Ukrainians with a winning quickstep, but could not match them in the other four styles. World No. 1 Austrian couple Brigitte Kroell and Werner Kaiser rounded out the podium.
Slugovyna showed why she is the reigning world champion in the women’s single class 1. She put on five winning dances to take the European crown. Israel’s Vital Zinger bettered Belarus’s Darya Kulsh in the tango, samba and jive to take the silver, as Kulsh took bronze.
It was an all-Ukraine dance-off in the duo standard class 1. Slugovyna and her partner Valeriy Bevzyuk – Worlds silver medallists – bested compatriots Snejana Kernichnaya and Vladimir Kernichny for the top of the podium. Finnish brother-and-sister duo Karin and Gustav Antell took home the bronze.
“I felt that the preparation before was not enough, so that is why before when I came on the dance floor, I felt nervous,” Slugovyna said. “But when I came on the dance floor I felt like an actress. I felt the audience, the music and I just danced.
“It was like my own win,” Slugovyna added about her country’s success on Friday. “We all worked so hard. Their medals are like my medals, and mine theirs.”
Ivan Zamiga added more to Ukraine’s medal haul. He was crowned the new European champion in the men’s single combined class 1 and 2. Zamiga bettered Germany’s defending European champion and Worlds runner-up Erik Machens, who took the silver medal. Poland’s Pawel Karpinski completed the podium.
Polish duo Bloch and Marek Zaborowski broke the Ukrainian strong-hold as they claimed the European Championships title in the combi freestyle class 2. Israel’s Natalia Ilchenko and Adam Greenfield’s performance lifted them to silver. The host nation left day one with a medal, as Slovakian couple Maria Dutkova and Martin Solc captured the bronze.
“This is the second time we have danced this choreography, and this choreography is for both of us, this is difficult and it came from the heart,” Zaborowski said. “It came from the heart.”
Added Bloch: “It was a surprise for both of us because it was our first medal in the freestyle. My silver in the singles was a bigger surprise because it was the first one I won in a solo.”
A moment of silence was observed before the competition began for Ukraine’s multiple world and European champion Nadiia Sivak, who passed away in early October.
The 2016 IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport European Championships continue on Saturday (29 October) with the duo Latin class 1 and 2; combi freestyle class 1; combi standard class 2; and combi standard class 1.
All events will be live streamed at the IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport website.
Live updates from Kosice 2016 can be followed on Facebook (/IPCWheelchairDanceSport) and Twitter (@IPCWDS).
Pictures from each competition day will be available at the Kosice 2016 website.