Stanislav Kovalenko celebrates his semi-final win in Cardiff.

Stanislav Kovalenko celebrates his semi-final win in Cardiff. Pic: Owen Morgan

Meet Stan . . . The Ukrainian Sprinter Who’s Now The Fastest Man In Wales


By Owen Morgan

Ukraine’s national sprint champion has said he will be “eternally grateful” to Wales for the welcome he and his team-mates have received in Cardiff.

Stanislav Kovalenko is being hosted by Cardiff Met University as he prepares for next month’s Ukrainian National Championships, along with fellow sprinters Nikita Rodchenkov and Danylo Danylenko.

As well as training in the capital, while his homeland continues to defend itself against the Russian invasion, Kovalenko and his team-mates competed at last weekend’s Welsh Athletics Championships.

The 26-year-old won all three 100m races he was involved in at the Cardiff International Sports Campus, including the final where he just edged Welsh champion Josh Brown by just 0.03 seconds in a thrilling race.

Nikita Rodchenkov before his 400m heat on Saturday. Nikita Rodchenkov before his 400m heat on Saturday. Pic: Owen Morgan

All this despite having competed at the European Games in Krakow the previous day with a limited amount of sleep in between.

Speaking immediately after the final, Kovalenko said: “We are living right now in Cardiff at the university campus. They help us, they support us and we can train on their facilities.

“If we weren’t here, we would be trying to do our best in the Ukraine, but because of the war we don’t have any facilities right now of the level that we have in Cardiff. It would be terrible if we tried to stay there right now.

“We’re eternally grateful for this opportunity to train, to compete and to maintain all that we have worked for.

“We must do our best right now as athletes because we need to prove to Europe and the world that Ukraine is the strongest nation in the world.

“We have such good friends here in Wales . . . coaches – Gareth Walton, our coach here, and the staff at the university. We have so many people helping us. We didn’t expect that we would have such friends here and around the world.”

Kovalenko produced three consistent performances in clocking 10.47 to win both his heat and semi-final, before registering 10.50 to win the final, just ahead of Cardiff Athletics sprinter Brown.

Talking about the opportunity and experience of competing at the Welsh championships, Kovalenko said: “It was beautiful.

“It was something new for me, you know, the Welsh nationals. It’s not like the Ukrainian champs. It’s a really brand new experience for me.

“Just yesterday, I ran in the 200m at the European Games and today, after maybe sleeping for six hours, I came to Cardiff and I tried to compete.

“I will be in Cardiff maybe for three weeks before the Ukrainian National Championships. I really like Cardiff. I like Wales, because you have such nice people. There’s such a nice atmosphere here.”

Stanislav Kovalenko wins his semi-final at the Welsh Athletics Championships. Stanislav Kovalenko wins his semi-final at the Welsh Athletics Championships. Pic: Owen Morgan

Also competing on Saturday was countryman Nikita Rodchenkov, who competed in the 400m where he won his heat before finishing third in the final behind Olympian Joe Brier, of Swansea Harriers, who claimed the Welsh title.

It’s not the first time since the war in their country that Ukrainian athletes have set up base at Cardiff Met.

Last August, Kovalenko and the rest of the Ukrainian 4x100m squad were based in Cardiff ahead of the European Athletics Championships in Munich.

And in December of last year a larger group of athletes visited Cardiff Met as part of the partnership which stems from the friendship between Cardiff Met performance coach Gareth Walton and Ukrainian sprint coach Sergiy Basenko.

It is supported by a fellowship and scholarship fund from the university worth £400,000.

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