Sport in Ukraine


As any nation in the world, Ukraine got its own national children and adults sporting events. However, despite the fact that sport games are hundreds of years, they become the full sport recently. These sports activities are a means of entertainment or a kind of gymnastics, it’s a way to improve health.

Although in Ukraine there are no exotic fun, like throwing logs (Scotland), finger wrestling (Bavaria), or buzkashi (Afghanistan), the Ukrainian national sports of the championship are gopak (the dance), combat gopak, Cossack double-event, khorting and Cossack spas.



Historians continue to argue about the time of when gopak became a dance. It is believed that the dance came about in the XVI-XVIII centuries, as the echo of trainings and exercises of Cossacks from Zaporizhzhia Sich. It was an all-male dance: Cossacks formed a circle in the center of which dancese Hetman with mace; the other Cossacks gradually joined to him for maintaining theirs military commander. The name of the dance (and the martial art also) appeared from the Ukrainian verb "gopaty" (Eng. “To jump”, “Pounding feet”). Jumps and sharp movements are its main features. The dance has become an integral part of a number of national ballets and operas such as "Taras Bulba", "Marussia Boguslavka", "Aeneid", "Cossack beyond the Danube" and so on. There are not only common for all dancers movements, but there are also exclusively male and exclusively female moves. And in the battle gopak there are all equal. However, academic gopak stage version and its battle variant are equally demanding to the physical training.


Stunts that are performing in a combat gopak exceed from a technical point of view many of the martial arts. This is spectacular art of using your own body and arms. Although gopak appeared on the basis of the Cossack exercises, it has become a martial art only in 1985. Its inventor is Vladimir Pilat. He opened an experimental school in Lviv, in 1985, and two years later he founded officially "The School of martial gopak" (the first women's school of martial gopak appeared in 2002 named "Asgarda"). Vladimir Pilat was studying kyokushin (one of the most violent types of karate) for 17 years, 7 years of which he was a Sensei. Besides kyokushin, Vladimir Pilat was studying aikido, sone, jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, etc. In the 80s, he began to study the martial art of Cossacks and the dance gopak. Drawing attention to the wealth of the movements, he decided to combine the fight and dance together. He managed to create smooth movements which you will not find anywhere else. Thus was born a new unique style of martial arts. Vladimir Pilat also noted that some of the movements he borrowed from self-defense techniques of the inhabitants of Galicia. In many villages there were institutions that teach young people self-defense. Villagers “paid” trainers meal, and the trainers did not have to deal with cattle or construction: their only task was to prepare the villagers for resistance. The first All-Ukrainian competition of combat gopac was held in May 1996, in Lviv, and in 1997 it became a national sport. Today, the sport is actively developing: the new schools appear, training specialists, and there are competitions of different levels.

However, many Ukrainians often treat to the combat gopac with some skepticism. But in 2001, at the IV World Martial Arts Festival in South Korea in Chardjou the Ukrainian team obtained the third place shocking the world. It is impossible, but the art that is only 16 years old, has been pushed aside almost all the martial arts of the world. Nowadays, combat gopak turned into a strong youth movement in Ukraine and beyond its borders. For athletes, it is not just a martial art – it is a kind of national art. It is a means to join the history of the Cossacks, to their knowledge and skills. Often athletes also learn the art of singing and playing various musical instruments.


There are five types of contests in the battle gopak: "Odnotan", "Tan-duel", “Zabava” (Eng. "Fun"), "Bornya" (Eng. “Fight”) and "Herts". "Odnotan" is a spectacular performance athlete musical composition contest. “Tan-duel” is a pair demonstration performance. "Zabava" is a duel with the restriction to touch, which aims to demonstrate the ability to strike up a fight and come out of it. During the "Bornya" two opponents using light touches - the serial attacks on the middle and long distances. "Herts" is a full-fledged battle, the only limitations which are regulated by international rules aimed at minimizing injuries. Skill level is measured in the same way as in other sports, although the name is authentic: III, II, I sports category (respectively "zhovtyak", "falcon", "hawk"), candidate master ("jura") Master of Sports, world-class athlete, honored master of sports ("Cossack", "kharakternyk", "volkhv").

Martial art named khorting was invented in Ukraine, in 2009. Only two years after its appearance was held the first championships of Ukraine, and in one year more it was the European Championship. According to the rules, it is a sort of combination of kickboxing and wrestling. Battles take place in two rounds. The first held in helmets and 12-ounce gloves, the second held without protection (only knee pads are permitted). Allowed kicks to the legs and punches to the head and body. Methods of fighting, grappling, throws, locks and even chokes are also permitted in the second round.


In recent years, some enthusiasts are trying to revive (or to create?) a mythical martial art named Cossack spas. In Ukrainian folklore among the mythical creatures one of the strongest is considered the so-called "Kharacternyks". According to ancient beliefs they are the Cossacks, who possessed superhuman abilities: they can live for a long time at the bottom of the river, they can open any bolts without the key, they can turn to an animal, they could turn a person into a bush, they could use illusive spells, and they may impose a curse. They would not take any damage from bullet, other than silver, and their skin was like steel. They were considered not so much a pest as witches (which, in turn, were able to help people) as the local heroes, which drew strength from prayer and owning special military abilities. Well, modern athletes involved Cossack spas do not know how to catch bullets fly teeth, but they still consider this martial art a better alternative to alcohol, smoking and other destructive aspects of modern life. Fir them it is a kind of Ukrainian non-contact combat (when the master allegedly can cause damage to the enemy without any touch). In addition, athletes are able to demonstrate patience and fortitude worthy of the military orders of monks from the Far East.

Cossack double-event is called an exercise by pulling up on the corner with a crossbar attached to the feet and throwing bags through the prism standing on the ground. Cossack double-event and Cossack spas athletes take part in professional competitions and often act with demonstration performances at the world championships in martial arts.

In addition to the national sport dance, weight training and martial arts, there are a number of Ukrainian children sports games. Among them are the so-called tall oak, a sorcerer, a round khreschik, poppy, quail, stoves, bread and others. For example, the game of the stove makes demands for speed, response and accuracy. First children got to make few holes in the ground by the number of players and the size of a small ball (rubber ball, tennis ball, etc.). Each player stays near his "stove". In priority order, the players throw the ball slightly, so that it falls into one of the holes (you can also dig a hole on a flat surface, and then the ball just rolled down slightly). The player, whose hole hit the ball, should have time to grab it and, without departing from the hole, throw in another player. Of course, the players try to get away as far as possible. If the ball hit the player, he grabs him and throws in another. This continues until someone misses. Then the ball is rolling again. Near the “stove” of the muff drawn stick, and so up to five marks. When a player signs five misses, his task is to take a stick near his hole, and touch it to the other players. When this happens, the game starts over.

Modern professional sports scene in Ukraine was formed in 1994 by sending a full national team to participate in the XIV Winter Olympic Games in the Norwegian town Lillehammer. Then Ukraine ranked 13th place in the overall standings. Figure skater Oksana Baiul won the only gold medal this year, becoming the first Olympic champion of the independent Ukraine. Two years later, at the Olympics in Atlanta Ukrainian athletes entered the top ten, obtaining nine gold medals. Within the Soviet Union Ukrainian sportsmen participated in the Olympics from 1952 to 1988 and once - in 1992 - Ukraine participated in the Olympics as part of the Unified Team (athletes from the countries that were part of the USSR) called EUN (Fr. “Équipe Unifiée“) under the Olympic flag. For today the Ukrainians got 115 sets of medals from the Summer Olympic Games and five from the winter Games. The most medals they won gymnastics and athletics (15 medals each), wrestling (13 medals) and boxing (11 medals).


Ukrainians are also taking part in all important sporting events throughout the year. For example, in 2011 athletes brought 314 medals in Olympic sports and 136 in the non-Olympic sports. At the world championships for non-Olympic sports Ukrainian athletes won 269 medals, 250 at the European Championships and won 37 World Cups.
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