Following the introduction of the Paralympic Games in 1948, about 7,000 athletes from 66 countries competed. This year, 32 countries and 18,000 athletes are competing in just 13 sports across four Olympic venues.
For Ukraine, which has filed a lawsuit against the International Paralympic Committee, at least three athletes are competing in the 2017 Winter Paralympics in South Korea. Stacey Ewers of Ohio, Boris Kuliyenko of New York and Olexander Chinuik of France are each competing in six events.
In an interview with the Sun News, Ewers said the experience of competing in the Sochi Paralympics — where Ukraine sent a small contingent of athletes — inspired her to try her hand at the Paralympics. Now she’s Team USA’s one of three qualified American pairs to compete in PyeongChang.
“We’re one of nine teams that was able to come and that I was able to try out with,” she said. “I was one of the very last ones in, but just from people talking to me about Sochi I know I really wanted to give it a shot.”
“We found out we made the program after Sochi, and that we were selected to come and try out and compete,” Chinuik said. “So we came to the IPC Congress in Denver last November.”
The athletes are using the sport they love to draw attention to the ongoing political unrest in Ukraine. In a statement on their website, the athletes described their mission: “To showcase Ukrainian Paralympic values of unity, independence, social responsibility and commitment to excellence, inspiring others to achieve their personal best and to renew our commitment to the cause of disability equality.”
Meanwhile, Colorado has the highest concentration of Ukraine dual citizens, with 22 percent of all Ukrainian-born Americans in the state identified as such. Seven percent of Canadian Ukrainians live in Colorado.