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Yaroslava Mahuchikh showed nerves of steel to capped off a nearly 2,000 kilometers, three days of traveling to reach Belgrade, by winning gold in the women’s high jump at the World Indoor Championships 2022 on Saturday (19).

The Ukraine star who was driven away from her home in Dnipro after Russia’s invasion of her country, held her emotions together to soar over a world-leading height of 2.02m on her first attempt to secure the gold medal and defeated Eleanor Patterson (2.00m) of Australia and Nadezhda Dubovitskaya (1.98m) of Kazakhstan who both cleared area records to claim silver and bronze, respectively.

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Another Ukraine jumper, Iryna Herashchenko, one of six athletes selected to represent the country in Serbia, finished fifth in the final with a clearance of 1.92m.

Mahuchikh attempted three unsuccessful jumps at 2.04m, but it didn’t really matter to her because after spending days sheltering in a cellar prior to her three days of traveling by car to reach Serbia, the 20-year-old was finally able to burst into joy as she ran down the track with her Ukraine flag held high.

The reigning European Indoor champion and bronze medalist from last summer’s Tokyo Olympic Games, revealed that all she was thinking about during the competition was fighting her battle for her family and her country in the stadium.

“It was very important for me, my family, my country,” Mahuchikh told BBC Sport during her post event interview.

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“I don’t think about competition, training. For me, coming here was difficult — three days by car — and to jump here was so difficult psychologically because my heart remains in my country.

“It’s so difficult but I think I’ve done very well for my country because I protect my country on the track. I think it’s a very important thing for my country.”

One notable absentee from the line up this weekend was the Olympic champion Mariya Lasitskene, who won gold in Tokyo representing the Russian Olympic Committee team, but was not able to compete at this indoor championships after World Athletics banned athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus.

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