SOCHI, Russia — Ukraine’s first medalist of the Sochi Paralympics dedicated her achievement Saturday to Ukrainian independence and appealed for peace with Russia.
Olena Iurkovska won bronze on the first morning of competition, just hours after Ukraine’s Paralympics team decided to attend the 10-day event despite Russia’s military occupation of the nearby Crimean peninsula.
Iurkovska finished third in the women’s 6 kilometer sitting competition. Svetlana Konovalova of Russia took silver.
“I devote my first medal in Sochi to an independent Ukraine,” Iurkovska said. “Every time I race, it will be for Ukrainian independence and peace in my country.”
Iurkovska embraced Valentina Matvienko, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, at the postevent flower ceremony.
Later Saturday, Ukraine won two more bronze medals in the biathlon, while Maksym Yarovyi claimed silver in the men’s 7.5-kilometer sitting event and Vitaliy Lukyanenko took gold in the visually impaired class.
The crisis in Ukraine has overshadowed the second phase of Putin’s bid to use the Winter Games to polish his country’s image abroad. Russia’s military intervention in Crimea, some 300 miles west of Sochi on the Black Sea coast, began after the closing ceremonies of the Olympics two weeks ago.