Oleksi Tsybko, the former captain of the Ukrainian rugby team has been killed defending the city of Smela against Russian invaders.
Durban — Oleksi Tsybko, the former captain of the Ukrainian rugby team has been killed defending the city of Smela against Russian invaders.
Tsybko was a former mayor of the town and like so many other Ukrainians, he did not hesitate to pick up arms to defend his country when Russia invaded his country on February 24.
Clearly a man with leadership skills, Tsybko became president of the Ukrainian Rugby Federation between 2003 and 2005 and then went into politics, becoming mayor of Smela from 2015 to 2018.
It was perhaps inevitable that rugby would be tragically touched by the growing conflict in eastern Europe. When the war broke out, the Russia and Ukraine rugby teams were co-incidentally using the same training facility in Turkey ahead of Europe’s second-tier competition below the Six Nations.
At that time Russia was being coached by South Africans Dick Muir and Grant Bashford but when the Russian invasion began, World Rugby suspended Russia from international competition.
Muir and Bashford returned to Durban, the Russian players returned to their families in Russia and the Ukrainian players went back to take up arms and fight for their country along with many other leading sportsmen from a variety of sports.
Famously, former world heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko has joined the fighting, as has his brother, Wladimir, also a former world champion boxer, and the renowned boxer Vasily Lomachenko
Also bearing arms is retired tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky as well as a host of soccer players, gymnasts, and athletes.